Three police officers face charges connected to a human trafficking investigation.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European times from Skopje -- 02/04/14
Macedonia is examining suspected cases involving legal infractions by members of the police force. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
The arrests of three police officers, including the deputy head of internal affairs in Ohrid, is part of a no-tolerance policy that Macedonia has instituted against corruption in the police force.
The three officers were fired following a human trafficking investigation involving women brought from Albania to Tetovo to work as prostitutes and in other criminal enterprises.
Police said the arrests were part of the same investigation that discovered 25 Albanian women residing and working illegally in such establishments in December.
"Police officers must be in the function of citizenry. While no police force anywhere is without risk of being compromised, our permanent commitment is to investigate all suspected cases and if there are grounds process them. There is no pardon for colleagues who cross over the other side of the law," Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson for the Macedonia internal affairs ministry, told SETimes.
The ministry sanctioned 681 employees in the past seven years, 607 of which were uniformed police.
Kotevski said the zero-tolerance approach has shown results, which are reflected in opinion polls conducted regularly by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
"The polls show a drastic increase in the trust and reputation of the police as opposed to a decade ago and earlier. They show we are on a good path and will continue to work in the same manner," he said.
Greater police contacts with citizens significantly improve the internal control process, said Rade Rajkocevski, professor at the Security Faculty in Skopje.
"The internal control system ... depends in large part on citizens' complaints submitted to the internal controls department. The cases of police officers involvement in human trafficking show that breaking up such networks is only possible through a centralised approach," Rajkocevski told SETimes.
Rajkocevski said future efforts to eradicate police corruption need to include additional filters early in the selection process.
"Applicants must decide whether they want to be police out of the love of the profession while living with a decent pay, or view working for the police as an opportunity to earn additional revenue," he said.
Additional reforms are needed to further improve professional police conduct and increase citizens' trust in law enforcement, said Stefan Budzakovski, former police chief in Ohrid.
"Since establishing multi-party democracy in Macedonia, we witnessed employment in law enforcement based on social policy, politics as well as [quotas provided by the] Ohrid Framework Agreement. Police employed on such basis should receive basic education, and specialise, especially if working for the services that deal with hard crime," he said.
What should Macedonian authorities do to further ensure police professionalism? Share your opinion in the comments space.