Serbia hoping new police leadership will reduce corruption


The government said it is dissatisfied with the results of the fight against organised crime.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 01/07/14


Serbia fired five police chiefs following a television address by President Tomislav Nikolic on police corruption. [AFP]

Senior government officials said they hope a dramatic change in the Serbian police leadership will improve efforts to eliminate corruption and ultimately lead to the arrest of top reputed crime bosses.

The government decided to fire five of the seven police chiefs after a dramatic meeting earlier last month.

Indications of changes emerged last month as Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said high-level police tried to blackmail him by saying his 16-year-old son participated in an incident.

After it was learned that no incident took place, Vucic called for an investigation.

At the same time, suspected cocaine trafficker Darko Saric stated before a Belgrade court that the case against him was staged by the chief of the criminal police administration, Rodoljub Milovic.

Saric also testified that Milovic took a bribe of several million euros from a rival crime gang to protect them from being charged.

Subsequently, President Tomislav Nikolic and Vucic met with Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic on June 20th.

After the meeting, Nikolic addressed citizens on state television and called for dismissals in the police leadership.

"I am not satisfied with the fight against crime within the police and with the rooting out of evil from the streets -- drug dealers and drug cartels. In the struggle against such evil that is destroying our society, no results were achieved in the past period, obviously because those criminal groups have aides, accomplices and informants within the interior ministry," Nikolic said.

Vucic said the government had no choice but to dismiss the five police chiefs in order to "reset the system" and enable police to serve the citizenry.

"That was the only way," he said.

The changes were necessary and all suspected illegal activities should be investigated, Zlatko Nikolic, of the Institute of Criminological and Sociological Research in Belgrade, said.

"The government made a good move. The image of the police has been shaken up. This reaction had to happen," Nikolic told SETimes.

However, some experts objected, saying the chiefs were dismissed without tangible evidence.

"There have always been dismissals in the police. It is normal for everyone to choose a team to work with. But it is dangerous to do it this way, when the top of the police is criminalised without hard evidence," Mile Novakovic, former head of the criminal police administration, told SETimes.

The government has a right to dismiss officials, but the move was preceded by spin and fabricated affairs, sociologist Vesna Pesic said.

"The government is constantly fabricating some affairs in a bid to cover up the fact that there are actually no results or reforms," Pesic said.

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However, officials from Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party (SNP) waved off the criticism.

There will be no political party-appointed personnel in the police, and police reform is one of the state's priorities, Jadranka Joksimovic, a member of the SNP presidency, said.

"The government did its job on the grounds of clear arguments [provided] by the state institutions," she said.

What can Serbia do to further improve authorities' ability to combat organised crime? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

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