PODGORICA – Parliamentary oversight of the police in Montenegro weakened in comparison to the previous year. The ruling majority MPs did not ask any question regarding the efficiency of the policing. This is a worrying trend, concluded researchers from the Institute Alternative at the presentation of police integrity assessment, held on 5 of December 2017, in Podgorica.
Members of the Parliament are not substantially concerned about the work of the police, said Aleksandra Vavić from the Institute Alternative.
“Of the 70 parliamentary questions directed to the Government not one has been about the work and the efficiency of the police. Weak oversight record of the Parliament is partially a consequence of the boycott by the opposition parties. This is evident in the practice from last year when MPs posed four questions on this topic in the same period”, Vavić explained.
Vavić expressed additional concern for the fact that the members of the ruling majority have not found it appropriate to oversee the work of the Ministry of Interior in the last six months, despite numerous control mechanisms at their disposal.
“This is especially concerning if we have in mind how many problematic situations in the previous period we had – for example the announcement for the Police Academy posts for new cadets or the poor implementation of the Police Directorate Development Strategy. We also have witnessed the use of the special anti-terrorist unit during the peak of the tourist season without any explanation, as well as the series of conflicts within the criminal structures in Montenegro”, Vavić explained.
As police external oversight body, the Council for Civic Control of the Police Work resolved 19 out 27 cases in the first half of year, said Vavić.
“The Council concluded that the Police Directorate employees acted unprofessionally or had exceeded its powers only in four cases. In other cases, the complaints have been withdrawn or have been closed by passing back the information to those who filed the complaint”, clarified Vavić.
Vavić added that of the 440 cases Ombudsman processed only 2 cases were related to the work of the Police Directorate.
“The Ombudsman should work more proactively, to initiate cases involving the police himself”, Vavić recommended.
The Ministry of Interior received 408 requests for the free access to information during the first nine months of 2017. In 14% of the cases, appeals were submitted to the Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information against the decisions of the Ministry of Interior underlined Ana Djurnić from Institute Alternative.
“However, the Agency regularly violates the 15-day timeframe and is generally slow in processing the complaints. Namely, last year, the Agency did not solve 60% of the complaints filed against the Ministry of Interior. This trend has increased to 80% in the first nine months of this year”, Djurnić illustrated.
According to Djurnić, 446 police officers and 5 public officials from the Police Directorate are obliged to submit a report on incomes and property to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption. This number makes 7% of total files within the Agency’s register of assets. The Agency is not specifically committed to keeping the register of police officials and police officers assets, despite the public perception of very high police corruption.
“There are no separate records that could enable the monitoring of the police officers, nor how many of them were reviewed, or what these controls have shown. On the other hand, they did not provide us with data on misdemeanor proceedings against police officers and officials on Asset Register Form, justifying this by the protection of personal data”, explained Djurnić.
Ivana Bogojević from the Institute Alternative assessed that the Ministry of Interior stagnated in resolving problematic issues in the area of financial management, noting that when it comes to these matters, the Internal Audit Department is still operating below their full legal capacity.
“There are still only two internal auditors active in this department, instead of the legal minimum of three”, Bogojević said.
According to her, the Ministry of Interior exceeded its budget by 14 million Euros last year, and the units that have spent the most were the administration and the Police Directorate.
“When it comes to the current year, 70% of the Ministry’s budget was intended for the Police Directorate, totaling almost 60 million Euros, which is an increase by slightly over a million compared to the previous year”, Bogojević stated.
Excessive expenditure on fuel is repeating on a yearly basis, she added.
Particularly problematic area, as she said, is the implementation of public procurements, which in the past year did not realize two-thirds of its planned public procurement funds.
“The Ministry of Interior absolutely does not meet the plans for their public procurement. We are especially concerned by the new legislation, which is a step back in control over the less transparent public procurement procedures”, Bogojević explained.
Institute Alternative’s public policy researcher Dina Bajramspahić said that the greatest dissatisfaction should be expressed towards the work of the police internal control, whose level of activity decreases every year.
“The work of the internal control is characterized by a continuous decline. On the one hand, the number of complaints that the citizens filed to the Internal Control this year was 20. This is only half the amount of complaints in contrast to the first nine months of the previous year, and even four times less than in 2014”, said Bajramspahić.
Out of the total number of complaints, she said, Internal Control has found irregularities in four cases.
“It is particularly worrying that out of these 20 complaints, only one was a complaint against corruption within the police, and it was submitted by the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is very worrying that citizens do not recognize Internal Control as an address for investigating possible corruption of police officers”, Bajramspahić said.
Given that the Internal Control consists of officers with police powers, she stressed that it is worrying that they found no criminal offenses by the police officers and have filed no criminal complaints to the Prosecutor’s Office proactively, this year or the previous ones.
“In some examples, Internal Control filed cases on the unlawfulness of police officers’ actions to the State Prosecutor’s Office, but these were the cases, for which Internal Control did not collect any evidence. Internal Control even considered these complaints to be unfounded, but due to the serious suspicion they had to deliver them to the Prosecution”, Bajramspahić said.
This year, there were two problematic cases related to the avoidance of the disciplinary responsibility by using the sick leave right, she said.
“We found two examples, which does not mean that there weren’t more of them. This worrying practice of avoiding responsibility threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the disciplinary commission. How can the commission legitimately sanction one police officer while enabling the other officer to evade the sanction through sick leave? In one of the two cases, however, a police officer was suspended“, Bajramspahić said.
The case that attracted public attention this year was the case of Mijo Martinović in which the police officers were charged for the excessive use of force. The Constitutional Court found that the investigation was ineffective in determining the responsibility of police officers.
“This kind of incident leaves a much more severe impression on the citizens and causes greater distrust than all the previous cases concerning the accountability. This example, as well as the examples in cases of “Limenka” and “Zlatica”, speak volumes on the failure of the system to recognize the responsibility of police officers due to the political protection, and illustrates the overall state of police integrity”, said Bajramspahić.
Milena Milošević from Institute Alternative considers that the call for police training of 60 trainees with secondary school education in September is in opposition to the strategic guidelines of the Ministry.
“Because of the fact that the call was published just before the local elections, we consider this to be a potential politicization of both police training and employment. In addition to the politicization, this is called is not aligned with the need for rationalization of police personnel and is discriminatory to the regular participants of the Police Academy”, Milošević believes.
According to her, the fact that the Minister of Interior has decisive powers in recruiting and assessing work of police officers is an unwarranted political influence over the police service.
“Partially positive improvement is the fact that, according to the new Civil Servants Act, the decisions on employment and appraisal are delegated to the heads of organizational units. This will formally exempt political elites from recruitment and evaluation. On the other hand, there is an additional need for professionalism in management”, Milošević said.
She emphasized that it is necessary to draw attention to the “sluggish and frequent” reorganizations within the Ministry of Interior. They leave negative consequences on the integrity of the police service.