Inadequate selection, lack of transparency, and poor professional development are the key weaknesses in human resources management in police forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
By Mirela Hodović (CSS)
Three persons have been, for whole nine years, on the expert list of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska (MIA) as graphologists although they are pedagogue and psychologists by profession. This is not in line with the Law on Experts which envisaged that the expertise on documents, signatures and printed bank notes are the sole responsibility of graphic-graphoscope specialists. Analysis of the physical characteristics and patterns of handwriting purporting to be able to identify the writer should be performed exclusively by graphic engineers.
The damage due to poor selection practice of staff for admission to the police service counts in millions of dollars and weakens the human resource management system.
“The decision by which these three persons were employed in such responsible positions were disputed, but regardless of that, the MIA unlawfully appointed them to this function. The estimates also show that these three persons are working without the necessary qualifications in cases such as expert testimony on seals, signatures, and files in court disputes, caused a multi-million-dollar material damage during that period, bearing in mind that during that period around a thousand individuals and legal entities have participated in court proceedings”, stated a prominent court expert in Bosnia and Herzegovina Dane Brankovic.
Still, this is not the only case of inadequate selection of police personnel.
The MIA at the beginning of 2017 made a selection of personnel trained at the Banja Luka Police Academy. At the start, everything sounded fine and in line with the Law. It was an open competition that envisaged that a total of 80 cadets will be admitted for the training. However, 51 cadets more than was foreseen has been admitted.
The media got interested in this case after they received a response from the MIA that they need to enroll more cadets because of foreseen retirement of 339 police officers in the next three years, based on the MIA analysis. Then, the question is why the new number of cadets was not envisaged in the competition when an analysis was being made? Moreover, the list of the names of the cadets received was never publicly disclosed. As a justification to the media, the MIA said that cadets disagreed with their personal information being publicized.
It was clear that the MIA has carried out a non-transparent selection of personnel, justified by the protection of personal data, and has, with such a procedure, actually provided the basis for suspicion of the abuse of the institution.
There are two main reasons for such poor human resource management practice, based on ongoing research by the Centre for Security Studies (CSS).
First, laws regulating policing in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) have not set valid criteria for an adequate selection of personnel for admission to the police force.
Existing legal solutions do not contain clear criteria for selection of police staff. Conditions regarding the minimum level of professional education are not precise enough and allow persons with different professions to apply for a public competition.
Laws on police officers in BiH have determined that persons who intend to apply, for example, as a police officer, must, among other things, have at least a high school diploma which formally enables persons without previous police, criminal or legal knowledge, employment in the police force, but also creates the wrong impression that police work can also be performed by persons who lack adequate training and qualification.
The Association for Social Development and Crime Prevention believe that such legal deficiencies degrade criminology in BiH.
“Almost 40% of criminologists or graduated criminologists who are currently listed at employment offices will never be able to do their job because they are older than 35, which is the age limit to apply for the rank of junior inspector. At the same time, in the cantonal MIA, those jobs are performed by persons with secondary education who do not have the necessary qualifications for the work they perform”, it was highlighted in the Association research.
Second, police officers often do not have adequate knowledge and skills for the positions they perform.
Those officers who need a deeper knowledge of certain areas are not always those who are sent to the relevant training, regardless of the fact that police officers are entitled by the law to have a continuous professional development and training.
Specialist training is often treated as a “reward trip”. The management usually sends high-ranking officials who will soon be retired or police officers who have achieved good results in their work (middle or high ranked leadership). Such practice gives poor results, because these persons will never deal with the subject of specialized training and there is little chance that knowledge will be passed on to their colleagues.
There is a practice where officers who attended a series of training and become experts in a particular area, after passing a certain period of time, move to a position that has nothing to do with the specialization they have completed. For example, an inspector specializing in financial investigations and working in a financial investigation department is forced to leave his department for career advancement which represents a huge loss of trained inspectors and a wasted investment in their training. This creates additional difficulties for the police, as these officers do not have the skills needed for new positions, and at the same time, police agencies money spent on their education is wasted.
The career advancement of police officers is also problematic. According to the laws on police officers at the Federation level and in Cantons, police officers who fulfill the conditions for promotion to a higher rank can be denied since the internal systematization provisions do not allow advancement in the service.
All of the above examples point to the fact that police forces in BiH must pay more attention to the selection of personnel, better professional development, and the establishment of clear and strict criteria for employment and promotion in the police service.
More exactly, it is necessary:
- Amending the existing laws on police officers at all levels in BiH and precisely defining the professional conditions for admission to the police by specifying which professions will be given priority in the selection of new police officers. Priority should be given to persons with completed security, criminal or law faculties, as this would have the effect of reducing the excess of educated staff in employment offices.
- The needs for training and professional development of police officers should be aligned with job requirements and career development plans in the police service and should provide police officers with other forms of training.
- Initiate amendments to the laws on police officers at the Federation level, with the aim of establishing fair criteria for advancement in the service.