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    • Bringing accountable police closer to the citizens

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    • Date: 12 December 2015
      Regional network of civil society organizations POINTPULSE has, in cooperation with the OSCE Mission to Serbia, on 10 of December in Belgrade, organized a conference "Promoting police integrity in Western Balkans", which goal was to gather the relevant stakeholders dealing with the police reform within the region.

      More than 80 participants take part at the POINTPULSE regional conference
      More than 80 participants take part at the POINTPULSE regional conference

      Common problem in the region are the functioning of internal control, and the fact that there is still no appropriate cooperation between the internal control and subjects performing external control, such is the Parliament. Another problem is human resources management, although this is a feature of the whole public administration, not only the police. Good thing is the fact that all the communities within the region noticed these issues, and embarked on reforms which goal is to make the police responsible for its actions. The third problem of police agencies within the region is that there is no operational independence of police from political structures. 

      By Dunja Tasić (BCSP) 

      The conference consisted of three panels, and each covered topic which are, according to POINTPULSE network’s opinion, currently most relevant for regional police agencies: (i) police reform in the context of European integration and regional cooperation, (ii) the role of police internal control in supporting police integrity, (iii) community policing development in the Western Balkans. The speakers at the conference were the representatives of the law enforcement agencies from the region, as well as representatives of the EU Delegation in Serbia, OSCE, as well as independent police experts.

      Fostering police reform

      The first panel dealt with police reform within the region in the context of European integration, given that all communities in the region are in some phase of this process, which imposes certain obligations related to police reform.

      Director of Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Sonja Stojanović Gajić, said that there is no safety for the citizens without an accountable police, and that the civil society organizations are an important mechanism for controlling police integrity. „Responsible police is a precondition for other reforms prescribed in Chapter 24“, said Stojanović Gajić.

      Ljubomir Nikolić, assistant to Minister of Interior in Serbia, pointed out during the first panel, that the regional cooperation is the key in fight against terrorism, crime and corruption. Benefits of European integration in the context of police reform, are adopting a modern police law, strengthening Serbian police’s cooperation with Europol, as well as ratification of relevant international conventions.

      Denise Mazzolani, Head of Police Affairs Department of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, stated that the regional operation is the key for the future, and that OSCE supports the open dialogue on police integrity and its responsibility. “The new Law on Police is opening the possibility to strengthen the system of internal control”, said Mazzolani.

      Nicolas Bizel, representative of EU Delegation in Serbia, talked about police’s role in democratic society. “Citizens shall trust the police only it the police acts in an ethical manner, respecting the democratic values”, said Bizel. He pointed out that depoliticization represents the precondition for efficient police work, and the media have to help in providing constructive criticism of police.

      Alfredo Saviano, Lt. Colonel of Italian Carabinieri, stated that there is a corruption problem within the police, so there is a need to build trust, starting from the “ordinary” policeman, up to the higher levels. “Police needs to be close to the citizens and open towards them, because the communication is extremely important”, Saviano emphasized.

      "Police internal control in Serbia needs to be centralized in order to perform well", Maurizio Salustro from the OSCE Mission to Serbia
      "Police internal control in Serbia needs to be centralized in order to perform well", Maurizio Salustro from the OSCE Mission to Serbia

      Maurizio Salustro “Police internal control in Serbia needs to be centralized in order to perform well”, Maurizio Salustro from the OSCE Mission to Serbia Maurizio Salustro from the OSCE Mission to Serbia believes that the police internal control within Serbian police needs to be centralized in order to perform well. “Bodies like Biro for Complaints and Grievances needs to be abolished and joined with the central internal control body” Salustro recommended.

      Not satisfactory work of police internal control

      Speakers at the second panel talked about the common issues of regional polices’ internal control. Dragan Kujundžić from the Serbian Internal Affairs Sector pointed out that the civil society organizations and police unions have had a great impact on shaping the draft of the new police law in Serbia.

      “Current version of law is the best in comparison to the previous ones, and Ministry of Interior is up to accepting additional suggestions, because this version is not final, said Kujundžić. He stated that the bylaws are drafted, but only in rough version, so there is no delay with their adoption after the Law on Police is adopted. The novelty of new law is performing the corruption risk analyses for every work place in Ministry of Interior, which will be drafted by Interior Affairs Sector. Also, the novelty is performing the control and keeping records on changes of financial status, but there is still a question if such control shall be performed for every employee within the Ministry, or just for specific categories.

      “Currently, the opinion of the Internal Affairs Sector is that the control shall be performed for middle and strategic managerial level of police employees, but also for some specific working positions which are prone to corruption”, said Kujundžić.

      Discussion with audience on problems within police internal control system in the region
      Discussion with audience on problems within police internal control system in the region

      Audience was addressed by Drago Spičanović from the Department for Internal Control of the Police within Montenegrin Ministry of Interior. He talked about the need to strengthen internal control’s capacities, by employing competent people. He also pointed out that there is an unwritten rule that police officers protect each other and do not report colleagues for their wrongdoings, due to police solidarity.

      Fahrudin Bećirović, the representative of the Federal Ministry of Interior in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed the need to dedicate more attention to the conditions under policemen work and live. “There is no trust in the system, which discourages people to report policemen’s wrongdoings” Bećirović said.

      Veljko Đurković from the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, talked about the complexity of police system specifics in Bosnia, because there are 22 police agencies on all government level, which function by the principle of coordination.

      Police should get closer to the citizens

      The focus of the third was on community policing development in the Western Balkans, as well as the exchange of experiences in the region in order to improve the current situation.

      Aleksandar Vasiljević from Serbian Ministry of Interior emphasized the importance of community policing, given that police is a service that should provide secure environment to the citizens. Serbian Government adopted the Strategy for Community Policing in 2013, and in August 2015 also the Action plan, which is available on Ministry’s website. These documents should define strategic goals for creating a modern and efficient police, which will strengthen its relationship with local communities, cities and municipalities. “One of the police in community projects is the project of creating a contact policemen, who would inform the police of the concerns of local community”, said Vasiljević.

      "Development of police ethics is a modern challenge of policing", Aleksandar Vasilijević from Serbian Ministry of Interior
      "Development of police ethics is a modern challenge of policing", Aleksandar Vasilijević from Serbian Ministry of Interior

      Dušan Baković form Montenegrin Ministry of Interior said that the community policing concept is a new philosophy of police work and it requires a change in police values. In this way, police changes its identity and transforms in to service to citizens. Focus of police work becomes prevention and not repression, and through community policing, there is a positive promotion of employing persons of all national, religious and other communities.

      Fahredin Verbovci from Kosovo Police, pointed out that, during 2004, a pilot project was kick started in several municipalities, which entailed formation of council bodies with the role of raising security issues. The boards of such councils presided twice, in order to improve their work.

      ///

      The conference “Promoting police integrity in the Western Balkans” is organized as part of the Action “Western Balkans Pulse for Police Integrity and Trust: POINTPULSE”. The Action is supported by the European Union through the program “Civil Society Facility” under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). The contents of the report from the event are the sole responsibility of the Belgrade Centre for Security Studies and views expressed in this document are not necessarily those of the European Union.

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