Serbia develops community policing

04/06/2013

The concept could transform the traditional police reactive service into a service that is more beneficial to citizens and minority groups, experts say.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade – 04/06/13

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The strategy focuses on the professional and ethical development of the police service. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]

The new community policing strategy in Serbia aims to improve the security situation in the country, as well as to align police work with international standards and human right acts, Belgrade officials said.

The strategy focuses on the professional and ethical development of the police service, in accordance with democratic principles and recognising citizens' needs with respect for minority group rights.

"This is significant step ahead and it gives a chance to police to take initiative and have a proactive approach instead of being traditionally reactive," Aleksandar Vasilijevic, deputy head of the community policing department in the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, told SETimes.

"The strategy aim is to gather all subjects active in the field of human rights to participate in community policing work and promote culture of diversity and tolerance," he added.

Analysts agree.

"Since the police still act only reactively, this strategy is important point for police preventive work start. Action plans for each part of the strategy and their time frames could help its implementation," Jan Litavski, an OSCE researcher, told SETimes.

He added that the politicisation of the police and the outdated model of management have been the main obstacles for the community policing strategy.

Adopting the strategy took almost 10 years after the first programme on community policing was implemented in in 2003 in four municipalities.

Other countries in the region have also implemented community policing.

Romania established the neighbourhood police as pilot project in two counties in 2000. In 2003 and 2004, the project expanded to the national level, mainly in urban areas.

It project aims to foster a close relationship between the police and the citizens in order to diminish crime and orient police's tasks and missions towards identifying and settling problems together with the citizens.

As of last fall, the Romanian police extended the project to rural areas as well, focusing on communities with large Roma population.

"The project will enhance the quality of the police's public service in rural areas and ... will also create a climate of respect for human rights, traditions and ethnic minorities' culture," Mihai Pruteanu, police commissioner and the co-ordinator of the project, told SETimes.

About 2,500 police agents will attend Romany language classes to gain a better understanding of the culture and traditions of the Roma communities where they will act, along with classes on human rights, mediation and conflict resolution.

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The Serbian community policing concept also includes education on professional development with a focus on curbing discrimination.

"To make a citizen service is a real opportunity," Vasilijevic said.

SETimes correspondents Ana Lovakovic in Sarajevo and Paul Ciocoiu in Bucharest contributed to this report.

What difference will community policing make in your country? Tell us what you think in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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