The report provides answers to the following group of questions: trust in 12 anti-corruption institutions, the perception of the police and corruption, citizens’ opinion on the fight against corruption and the work of civil society.

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SUMMARY

Citizens in the Western Balkans trust the education and health care system the most, while the police are also placed high on the list, trusted by more than half the population (59%). A slight increase in confidence in the police has been noted from one year to the next.

The first things that come to citizens’ minds when a police officer is mentioned are cordiality, responsibility, and professionalism. As regards policewomen, the dominant traits are cordiality and pleasant appearance. Male officers are perceived as more prone to corruption and aggressive behavior, while this perception of women officers is almost non-existent.

The population is divided on the topic of whether the police serve the interests of citizens. Almost half of them (45%) believe that the police serve the interests of citizens the most, while the same percentage (45%) considers this to be incorrect, believing that the police operate as their own service the least.

The citizens perceive the judiciary (66%), the health system (66%), customs (63) and the Prosecutor’s Office (63%) as the most corrupt institutions. Although more than half of them do trust the police, most see it as corrupt (58%).

The perception of high levels of corruption in the police persists together with a relatively high level of trust in this institution. The percentages are almost identical. Such a situation suggests that citizens may have reconciled with the fact that corruption is omnipresent in the police, and that they have become accustomed to it as an inevitable segment of police work.

Border, traffic, and criminal police, as well as the close associates of the Minister of Interior, were recognized as the most corrupt sections of the police force. Those perceived as least susceptible to corruption are the special units, employees who perform administrative tasks, and those in charge of the protection of public peace and order.

Citizens in the Western Balkans are convinced that employment in the police is gained through a public competition. However, along with this reply, they also mention corruption and political and family ties in connection with employment in the police force. More than half of the population (65%) believes that politicians influence the operational work of the police.

The views on reporting corruption vary. Citizens who say that they would report corruption would do so at their local police station. According to those surveyed, the most effective method for preventing corruption is the stricter punishment of perpetrators, especially police officials. The Government, the Minister of Interior and the internal police control are viewed as most responsible for preventing corruption.

Citizens of the Western Balkans believe that civil society is an important player in the fight against corruption, both as a direct actor and as the state’s collaborator on this task. Only then do they notice that, in the fight against corruption, civil society also contributes by doing research, gathering evidence and offering protection to victims.

Based on systemic problems identified in the police forces of the Western Balkans, it is possible to formulate recommendations for improving the situation. First, it is obvious that the police forces can learn from one another, especially when it comes to the individual areas that have been identified by the research. For example, the exemplary willingness of the citizens of Macedonia to report police corruption can help introduce good practices and solutions to other police organizations in the region.

The Western Balkans police forces must communicate much more effectively with citizens in order to increase the level of trust and confidence in their work; they also need to adapt the methods and channels of communication to the target groups. This is especially important when it comes to younger generations who, as a rule, have much a more negative perception of the institutions than the older population.

Finally, additional and coordinated efforts are needed to address some of the biggest problems in the police. The citizens have become aware of the fact that the key to solving the problems of corruption, lack of professionalism of police officers, and bias in the operational work of the police is in the hands of national political elites.

TAGS: AlbaniaBosnia and HerzegovinaCorruptionExternal OversightKosovoMacedoniaMontenegroPerceptionReportSerbiaWestern Balkans