The key problem is human resources management, ie hiring and giving promotions which is not based on merit, knowledge, skills and personal abilities relevant to police work, said Dina Bajramspahić, Institute Alternative’s policy researcher
In the context of the deteriorating of security in our country, we recall of some of the issues that we have been pointing out for years, and which essentially reflect on the quality work of the police. Realistically speaking, work of the police today is much better than it was two years ago and many steps have been taken, especially in the area of international police cooperation. However, progress is not yet made in several important areas such as hiring and promotion, training and education, internal organisation.
The key problem is human resources management, ie hiring and giving promotions which is not based on merit, knowledge, skills, personal abilities relevant to police work. For decades, Montenegrin police have functioned as a service which gathered low-skilled unemployed persons. In long run, this is reflected on the quality of work and dissatisfaction of heads of departments who, despite the huge number of officers, always complain on the lack of employees to manage the actual police tasks. In other words, although there are many police officers, there are only a few ‘’real’’ police officers.
Almost nothing has been done in order to identify what are the competencies needed for performance of police work, to direct those who are willing to work in Police, as well as those who are already in service, to develop and improve those competencies. Instead, exactly the opposite is being done. In order to accelerate recruitment, at the same time while we have educational program at the Police Academy, which lasts for two years, we have courses which lasts three months in order to urgently ‘’push’’ 90 new police officers to the Police. Officers from these, ‘’urgent’’ courses, are not well trained for police tasks, nor are familiar with human rights and use of force. And if it is already possible to train high school students to be police officers, then the Police Academy, which costs citizens million and two hundred thousand a year, should be completely closed. Even the Police Academy’s two year program is not as good as it should be. We saw that when one of the best students of this Academy, freshly hired in Police, was filmed in excessive use of force when performing police duties. However, instead of further improving the Academy and instead of working more persistently and thoroughly with the academics to grow the values of strictly respecting the laws, the plan seems to be completely opposite. The intention is to build out of the present Police Academy, as an independent institution, an organisational unit within the Ministry of Interior Affairs, that is used for fast courses. By advocating such solutions, Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Police do not show that they take seriously the gravity and importance of police work, especially in the contest of the use of force.
Cheap courses for the low-skilled officers to be are even more negatively reflected on life prospects of those officers. Officers with a high school degree do not have many opportunities to achieve promotion in service and cannot occupy more than one position. In the long run, they will become dissatisfied with low incomes. This led to the issue of ‘’fake college diplomas’’ in the Police, which was discussed even on Parliament’s Security and Defence Committee. Because the police system is by definition ‘’career’’ oriented, often lifelong, officers who could not move up in hierarchy, often turn to easier solutions.
Although the annual budget of the Police Administration is huge, 73 million of euros, and the most of this goes on salaries, this amount is shared to too big number of officers. This amount of money is more than enough to create a pay system that would make all of the employees satisfied. But to make things even worse, in accordance with the MOI’s Rulebook on Organisation and Internal Systematisation and Rulebook of Police Administration, the number of officers with police authorities will continue to grow, and the same ‘’cake’’ will be shared with more and more new colleagues. However, the essential question is how much of these new colleagues really will contribute to improving of the security situation in Montenegro and whether anything will be improved. The practice of giving police powers to those who those powers do not use, just to increase their salaries, is devastating because they cost the system and do not contribute to solving issues on the street. This is also the issue mentioned before: we have many administrative officers with a police badge and only a few real police officers. Such non-strategic decisions must be ended as soon as possible.
Such officers, who are unprepared for police work, come to work where they don’t find well-developed internal procedures and operational standards of act. In these cases, they mostly depend on their colleagues and learning things along the way, adopting the previous ways of work, which sometimes are not the best ones. Much more attention must be paid to this, especially having in mind that even in minor oversights police officers may put themselves and the others in danger.
The new Rulebook of the Police Administration was made contrary to all the principles of good organisation of the police service. Instead of consolidation of organisational units and reducing the number of heads of departments, in order to improve the efficiency and sharpen the lines of responsibility, exactly the opposite was done. Already lumbering and sluggish system is further complicated. Such situation will make communication and coordination between organisational units even more difficult in the long run.
Finally, while the Police is stumbling, criminal organisations are up to date. Upgrading police forces with new technologies, specialised staff with knowledge in IT, banking, forensics, identifying violence against children and women, cybercrime is something that must be considered. Of more than 4,000 police officers, just some over 800 of them have high level of education and less than 300 have higher levels (including the Academy), according to 2015 data.
The new Law on Internal Affairs, which has been in process since 2015, and which is due to be adopted by the Government by the second quarter of year, is a good opportunity to make many steps ahead relating to many problems in Police. The question is whether decisions will be made on the basis of professional or political parameters.
Author: Dina Bajramspahić, public policy researcher at the Institute Alternative
Article was originally published in the daily newspaper Vijesti, as well on the Vijesti’s portal.