The integrity of the police in Serbia has been compromised. Ministry of Interior has recognized the problem of compromised integrity of the police, and that is good.
The integrity of the police in Serbia has been compromised. Only four percent of Serbian citizens believe that there is no corruption in the police force. The fight against corruption in the police became a “target” of the European Commission because the police has been identified in the Screening Report for Chapter 23: Judiciary and Fundamental Rights as a particularly sensitive area when it comes to corruption. Only one out of 23 Anti-Corruption Strategy activities listed in the Action Plan under section “Police” was implemented in full and within the set deadline. All this indicates the presence of a problem of accountable policing.
Ministry of Interior has recognized the problem of compromised integrity of the police, and that is good. New strategic MoI priorities have been established: strengthening the accountability of the police and the internal control mechanisms to suppress corruption in police ranks. Consequently, the police reform in 2015 was marked by (i) drafting the new Law on Police, which will introduce new anti-corruption measures such as verification of the property of police officers in leading positions, and (ii) the establishment of an effective human resources management system in the MoI. The seriousness of this job may also be gleaned from the fact that adoption of the new Law on Police had been proposed three times already during this year, and that the new Human Resources Sector, as the main proponent of reform in this area, has yet to become operational even though changes in the human resources management had begun four years ago.
This Report presents the results of monitoring the integrity of the police service in Serbia. Research indicates whether and to what extent the MoI and the police are behaving responsibly, i.e. whether the established strategic objectives and statutory functions are implemented in practice. The study offers an analysis of the integrity of the police using specific methodology for assessing the integrity of the police in six areas in which legal and practical weaknesses that may jeopardize such integrity have been examined: the transparency of police work, the influence of political interests on the operational work of the police, human resources management, financial management, internal control and external oversight of police work. Special emphasis was placed in the Report on the analysis of the solutions contained in the Draft Law on Police.
The study revealed six major findings. (i) The main danger lies in the politicization of the police and excessive discretionary powers of the Minister of Interior. The draft Law on Police does not provide sufficient and necessary conditions for the depoliticization of police management, where the work of the police had been marred for years by various scandals, very often of political character and with no clear epilogue. The latest in the series is a conflict that occurred between the Minister of Interior and the Ombudsman.
(ii) There is no uniform system of internal control of the police. The Draft Law on Police does not make a clear distinction between the competences in the work of the Internal Affairs Sector, Department for Control of Legality of Work within the Police Headquarters in Belgrade and the Police Administration, and the Department for Control of the Legality of Work within the Gendarmerie and the Bureau for Complaints and Petitions within the Office of the Minister. New anti-corruption measures, although they may have a beneficial effect on the reduction of corruption in the police, are not sufficiently developed in the Draft Law on Police.
(iii) The transparency of MoI is exhausted through publication of reports on most significant work results and Information Bulletins on the website of the Ministry; this however is not enough. The lack of a unified database on the crime situation, accessible to the citizens, is extremely problematic. Progress was observed in the positive approach of the MoI to involve all the stakeholders in the process of drafting the new Law on Police.
(iv) Financial management in the MoI is difficult because the Ministry is not fully prepared for the transition from linear to program budgeting and the system of public procurement has not been fully completed. Progress has been made through the development of software for the electronic monitoring of public procurement, which should also facilitate drafting the Public Procurement Plan.
(v) The Draft Law on Police introduces significant innovations that can enhance parliamentary oversight of police work. However, in practice, external supervision is still more formal than it is substantive. The Committee for Defense and Internal Affairs does not have broad competences when it comes to controlling the police, and it is practically reduced to adopting information on the work of the MoI and submitting amendments to the relevant laws. Cooperation with the Anti-Corruption Agency, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner is improving.
(vi) The reform of human resource management in the Ministry of Interior, which has begun, will be able to qualitatively change the work of the police and contribute the most to the development of police in Serbia. In the last four years the initial conditions for a purposeful human resources function in the Ministry of Interior have been met through the adoption of a strategic plan for the development of human resources and the creation of the organizational unit which should lead the reforms.
De-politicization of the police, transparent continuation of police reform in the area of human resources management and the establishment of an effective system of internal control represent key prerequisites for further development of the police, which implies police officers who perform their statutory duties responsibly, provide support for the rule of law, and maintain and enhance safety.
About Report ─ The Report is published 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 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.