A survey of citizens and police officers indicates that corruption is an issue among Serbia's traffic police.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 10/01/13
Serbian citizens and police officers say that traffic police are the most corrupt. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]
The president of Serbia's police union is calling on the internal affairs ministry to address misconduct in the traffic police force, whose members are accused of being among the most corrupt government workers in the country.
Veljko Mihajlovic, who is also a member of the EU police union, said the internal affairs ministry has the resources to identify and fight corruption.
"They've been successful in directing the work of the ministry through functionally competent services toward specific solutions in anti-corruption. Some of these solutions are part of the road traffic safety regulation, according to which police officers cannot receive money from the traffic participant for a violation, a traffic penalty is paid in a bank or at a post office," Mihajlovic told SETimes.
A recent survey of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) showed that 90 percent of Serbian citizens say the police force is corrupt, ranking third on the list of institutions the public identifies as fraught with corruption.
More than half of citizens (59 percent) and police officers (55 percent) said the level of corruption in the police is the same as in other institutions. Both groups share the opinion that bribery is most frequent, and that high-level managers are most often bribed, but that the traffic police are the most corrupt.
"This is worrying since it's the police that should fight corruption in the society," Sasa Djordjevic, a BCSP researcher, told SETimes.
In a case in August, Dejan Subotic and Milan Culafic, high-ranking officials who headed the local crime and narcotics suppression departments at the Valjevo police administration in western Serbia, were arrested and charged with accepting bribes from local drug dealers to protect criminals.
The internal control department at Serbia's ministry of internal affairs made the arrests in late August. The national police directorate assisted in the action with the intent of ending corruption in the police, police director Milorad Veljovic said.
"The police upheld an example of the fight against organised crime and corruption, and those who are not acting lawfully cannot be its members," Veljovic told reporters.
Djordjevic said that although police officers are aware of corruption in the police force, both police personnel and citizens refuse to talk about it openly.
"Some police officers think the fight against corruption in the police is their task, which means that it is necessary to work on having responsible police officers. Also, as a way of dealing with the issue on an "in-house" basis, without external intervention," he said.
Mihajlovic said protecting police officers' human rights and raising their salaries would be significant steps in the anti-corruption fight. Mihajlovic said the union is working on those areas, adding that every officer who was involved in corruption lost their union membership and the right to protection.
"The state should lead this fight and start with bureaucracy reduction, and hire for leading positions based on professional qualification, only. High-level corruption should be managed first," Mihajlovic said.
Jan Litavski, OSCE associate, told SETimes that corruption in the police force is not only a matter of security, but also of budget, since about 7 percent is allocated to the ministry, which employs around 45,000 people.
"One of the results of corruption in the police force directly affecting the citizens is that the tax payers' money is used for purposes that were not planned under the police budget," Litavski said.
He added it is important to work on development and strengthening the anti-corruption mechanisms in the police, as well as on establishing institutional and operational channels for co-operation with Serbia's Anti-Corruption Agency and Anti-Corruption Council.
"The media and civil society are two important subjects, and their status should be precisely defined in the new anti-corruption strategy," Litavski said.
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