This article on police corruption was originally published in Sbunker, a Kosovo-based current affairs blog dealing with politics, society, culture, and economics.
By Plator Avdiu (KCSS)
The risk of corruption is challenging the Kosovo Police, diluting the functioning of its internal control mechanisms to fight corruption. Allegations of corruption of traffic police and the accusations of the senior police officers’ involvement in the intentional shutdown of investigations in exchange for a significant monetary compensation are only a few of the cases that have marked 2016 and 2017 in terms of allegations of the police corruption in Kosovo.
While the suspected acts of corruption remain to be investigated by the judiciary bodies in Kosovo, this may have a damaging impact on the integrity and good governance of this security institution and to significantly challenge the rule of law within the Kosovo Police. Accordingly, the police need to improve and strengthen the internal control mechanisms for the oversight of its personnel activities despite the ranks that they have within the institution. Actually, internal police control mechanisms have a key role in strengthening integrity, good governance and the rule of law within the police. Moreover, enhancing institutional integrity should be conducted through the fight against corruption and the strengthening of internal mechanisms for the prevention of corruption, more precisely by reducing the corruption and fighting other negative phenomena. However, in order to achieve these goals and move towards more professionalism amongst police and its personnel, the relevant mechanisms must firstly be independent of the police management and not influenced by various police officials. This does not imply that the internal police control mechanisms would compete with the work of the justice bodies or the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo. On the contrary, this would primarily aim at preventing the phenomenon of corruption within the institution through the oversight of police officers and their superiors that could potentially be suspects of the criminal offense of corruption.
One of the ways to prevent police corruption is the drafting the Kosovo Police integrity plan, which was already drafted in some of the Kosovo institutions (including integrity plan of the Ministry for the Kosovo Security Forces and some Kosovo municipalities). There should be precisely defined internal police control activities for prevention of corruption through cooperation with other relevant institutions (especially with the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo) and raising awareness among the police personnel about the corruption risk.
In addition to the internal police control mechanisms, the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo currently has legal rights to investigate criminal offenses committed by police officers, regardless of their rank or position, should be more active in overseeing the police with the instruments at their disposal. In cases where Kosovo Police internal mechanisms fail to prevent corruption of its officials, then the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo, as it is legally required, should use the covert and technical measures of surveillance and investigation for the collection of data, when there is a grounded suspicion that officials are engaged in corruption. Furthermore, the Police Inspectorate measure should be used for the purpose of integrity investigation to maintain the spirit of police ethics and to develop the highest professional standards of the police to fight police corruption.
On the other hand, the functioning of the Police Inspectorate under direct subordination of the Minister of Internal Affairs may raise doubts as to whether this institution can carry out its mission independently and professionally for a responsible, democratic and transparent police being an executive institution under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Therefore, it is perhaps necessary to examine the current status of the Police Inspectorate for the establishment of its independence and to exclude the possibility for the Ministry of Internal Affairs to be involved or to intervene in its activities. In this regard, the role of the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Affairs and Security should be significantly increased to better oversee the activities of the Police Inspectorate. Moreover, other alternatives should be sought: rather than reporting and be responsible directly to the Minister of Interior, the Chief Executive Officer of the Police Inspectorate could report and respond directly to the Assembly of Kosovo on the work of the institution leading the investigations of criminal offenses, including those of corruption of the police personnel. Meanwhile, another option might be for the Police Inspectorate to participate in the State Prosecutor’s Office since it has the right to investigate criminal offenses committed by police officers. All of the above suggestions would contribute towards enhancing the independence of this institution for the detection, documentation, and investigation of police integrity, with particular emphasis on fighting corruption within the police ranks.
Additionally, prevention and effectively fighting the police corruption in Kosovo would inevitably lead to the increase of citizens’ trust in the police, and would further increase its function in the public safety service for citizens. Ultimately, enhancing institutional integrity should also be aimed at professional development of the police and police officers for good governance within the institution.