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          • Year: 2018
          • The Citizens’ Opinion of the Police in Serbia - 2018

          • Trust in the police has been growing in parallel with the perception of corruption and the impression that the work of the police is politicised. This is the main conclusion of the fourth annual public opinion survey "The Citizens’ Opinion of the Police Force" conducted by Belgrade Centre for Security Policy as a member of the regional POINTPULSE network.

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          Six out of ten citizens trust the police (61%), which positions this Serbian institution at the world average: between 60 and 90 percent. At the same time, seven out of ten citizens believe that police officers are corrupt (69%), while three quarters are convinced that their interests are subordinated to those of politics (72%).

           

          The high level of politicisation and perception of corruption in the police obviously does not affect the population’s trust in this institution, which indicates that citizens are either accustomed to the general presence of corruption or that they do not view trust as something that should exclude the presence of corruption and the influence of politics on the operational work of the police.

           

          A part of the population perceives the police as a service of the citizens, while twice as many respondents believe that they operate in this capacity the least. For the third year in a row, and without any fluctuation, one third of the respondents stated the view that the police operate as a service of the citizens (37%), while this year was marked by a slight increase in the percentage of those that believe that the police act the most to protect the interests of the Government and the political parties. Such a view was expressed by every fourth citizen of Serbia. Six out of ten respondents (60%) believe that the police operate as a service to the citizens the least, which represents an increase of six percent compared to the year 2017.

           

          In Serbia, the dominant perception is that of widespread corruption. Only three of the twelve offered institutions have recorded a perception of corruption that is below 50 percent, while the health services, police, judiciary and media are at the top of the list when it comes to how corrupt they are perceived to be. In such an environment, corruption - which is clearly a negative phenomenon - becomes transformed into something that is considered normal, and the prevailing justification seems to be that “the system has forced me into corruption”. The consequence of such a view is the absence of liability for corruptive behaviour, which affects the sense of safety of more than two thirds of the citizens. Therefore, it should not be surprising that, when it comes to safety, citizens depend on themselves more than they do on state institutions. Only one in four would rely on the police to protect him/her.

           

          Citizens of Central Serbia trust the police more, are more confident that the police would protect them, and feel much safer than the population of the city of Belgrade and the province of Vojvodina. Gender differences almost do not exist, and only minimal differences can be noted in answers provided to a few questions. Men feel safer than women, which is common for many countries in the world. In terms of security, women rely on themselves more than men do, while men believe that the police are politicised more than women do.

           

          Traditionally, and for the fourth year in a row, traffic police officers are perceived as the most corrupt segment of the force. Three out of four citizens believe that members of the traffic police are corrupt. In the last four years there has been a negative trend in the growth of perception of corruption in the traffic and criminal police, while corruption in the border police, administrative affairs and special units has experienced a positive tendency, i.e. reduction in perception.

           

          Citizens still do not see concrete and tangible results of the fight against corruption in the police, but they are nevertheless slightly optimistic. Every other citizen of Serbia believes that the state is fighting corruption in the police, but that it is not doing it the right way, while a quarter of the population is convinced that the state is not doing anything at all to fight this form of corruption. Nevertheless, one third of the citizens still believe that, in the future, the fight will proceed somewhat better in comparison with the current state of affairs. According to the citizens, the winning formula would include strict sanctioning of corruption and the leadership by the internal control of the police.

           

          The report was published within the project “Pulse of Integrity and Trust in the Police in the Western Balkans”, which aims to contribute to increasing trust and confidence in the police. This is the reason why seven civil society organizations from the region came together in the POINTPULSE, which consist: Analytica from Skopje, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network from Belgrade, Centre for Security Studies from Sarajevo, Institute Alternative from Podgorica, Institute for Democracy and Mediation from Tirana, and Kosovo Centre for Security Studies.
          The project is supported by the European Union through the program titled “Civil Society Facility” implemented under the “Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance”. The content of this report is the sole responsibility the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. The views expressed in this document are not necessarily the views of the European Union.
        • Tags: police, corruption in police, Western Balkans, POINTPULSE, public opinion, citizens, Sasa Djordjevic, Bojan Elek
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