State Police on duty and serving citizens

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at meeting with State Police officials:

 

I would like to publicly communicate today a series of issues of public concern, as well as a series of expectations and targets we share together with the Minister of Interior concerning the State Police activity and performance.

First of all, I would like to wish every success to the newly-appointed district police directors, hoping that the most recent police reshuffle, which will be associated with further moves affecting entire pyramid of the State police, including police stations, will help an indispensable re-energization to usher a new era of further reforms and transformation of the State Police.

Undoubtedly, the State Police have today many reasons to be proud for their work, but, on the other hand, it is precisely why the State Police have clearly demonstrated this country’s police can meet the European standards, but the citizens’ expectations and dissatisfaction are at a significant level currently.

The expectations on one hand are related to the indispensability for the State Police, like all state structures, the government itself, to move forward faster and yield more results and dissatisfaction and expectations therefore increase significantly in every step we take.

I would like to start listing the problems based on the State Police’s relation with the community and the citizens, which is the alpha of the State Police’s daily work.

It is unjustifiable that the reported cases allegedly showing lack of police ethics when communicating with the citizens, especially the police patrol unit “The Eagle” and the general patrol unit, who often exceed their power and role, are on the rise. The rise of cases showing lack of police ethics when communicating with the citizens is very significant to figure out the overall psychological situation and overall mobilization level of the police officers in daily contact with the citizens’ woes, needs and complaints.

The very positive image and perception built over the years for the State Police should in no way be tarnished, let alone be harmed affecting this way the public perception over whole State Police. This is a top priority for all newly appointed district police directors to defend the State Police’s sacred uniform and image.

The State Police are viewed and respected as one of the most credible institutions for several years now and the recently tarnished image following minor corruption cases, especially within the Traffic Police are intolerable. I would like to commend the Internal Control and Complaints Service and publicly encourage this department to act strongly against all these cases.

We have increased, also meeting the public’s expectations, the punishing role of the traffic police against the road code breakers. It is unacceptable that these competences are interpreted as a fresh opportunity for the police officers to exert pressure on drivers in order to force motorists to pay bribes and it is unjustifiable that despite the increased powers of the traffic police, thanks to the recent changes to the Road Code, the citizens do not feel a radical change regarding the road traffic, and this is a fact.

The State Police structures themselves and theInternal Control and Complaints Service have found that police officers at police stations fail to properly and timely address the citizens’ denunciations and moreover now that the tourist season is at its height and the number of visitors entering and leaving the country is significantly high, it is unjustifiable that unworthy individuals in the police ranks run counter the shared obligation of all state structures to welcome and help the holidaymakers according to the best Albanian tradition and the highest standards of a country seeking to become a champion of tourism in the Balkans. Lack of ethics, lack of communication, involvement of police personnel in abusive actions are disgusting elements that should be fought uncompromisingly by adopting a zero tolerance policy.

I would like to strongly emphasise a fact here that is very challenging itself. It is very challenging to the law, to the state and the police themselves. Who are these bar owners in coastal areas that openly and flagrantly violate the law by breaching the nightly curfew, create space for abusiveness to such extension that the situation degenerates to the use of firearms injuring people gathered in their business premises. Who are they?

I tell you who they are.

They are the State Police tutors in those territories, they are the one who corrupt the State Police and they are the abusers with the State Police uniform, who control and command policemen, directors of police stations turning them into guardians of their illegal activity.

The incident in the coastal town of Saranda was an alarming case and I have discussed this issue with the Minister of Interior and the State Police Director General, insisting that the cause should have led to criminal prosecution of the entire police command chain in Saranda, and not administrative investigations, but immediate exclusion and criminal prosecution of the responsible individuals. Who is going to be held accountable for the use of firearms and for injuring people gathered at the bar at on a.m. after midnight except those who have turned a blind eye allowing this activity operating totally violating the law as if this was happening in a remote area and not right at the heart of city. This is a challenge against the law, the good citizens and the rest of population who obey the law.

I can’t blame the State Police that a crazy man drives the car irresponsibly, injuring and maiming innocent people or that two individuals engage in a conflict that generates with the use of firearms in the dead of the night, but, on the other hand, I can’t help but support the public opinion when the police in Saranda allow a midnight music show that ends up with the use of firearms.

We also face a series of facts emerging from activity of certain State Police individuals in not a distance past, when they were involved in criminal activities. It is quite a positive that these individuals are being exposed and they are receiving what they deserve, but it is quite significant to figure out what we should protect and preserve the State Police from.

On the other hand, I don’t know for how long, but it is for several years know that we regrettably see the State Police and the main police officials at a local level who have yet to fully grasp and have yet to make the territory protection part of their work and mission in every respect. This has been a serious management problem over the decades. Protection of the public properties and environment is now part of the State Police mission. For what reason we should still see sporadic illegal construction activities?

This can happen for one single reason, because of corrupt police officers. There could be no other reason but being a crime accomplice, while a new legislation piece has been adopted by parliament recently to enhance police competences and powers regarding protection of the territory. Abusive illegal construction activities incur tremendous cost on the Albanian state and the Albanian citizens should pay not a single cent, let alone millions for these costs.

Road traffic safety and ensuring the territory’s inviolability from the illegal builders should be a top and continued priority for every new police director vis-à-vis the citizen and the police structure he or she heads, as well as vis-à-vis the territory, which should be the two sides of the same coin in their daily work. The police have raised criminal charges against villagers from the country’s remote areas for building a wall fence, while criminal construction activities have been tolerated in tourist areas, in nature and archaeological protected areas, although we have repeatedly reiterated and I have also reiterated at meetings with the local police directors that it is disgraceful, fearsome and intolerable that police structures in the territory spend time and energies to travel to the country’s remotest areas just to cause troubles and prosecute villagers who build a wall fence around their modest homes, while concrete is poured in the country’s most beautiful parts because of the police involvement in corruption practices.

Illegal construction activities and concrete is poured precisely at the areas where construction is not permitted, but the State Police fail to act. They merely turn a blind eye and we are not talking about crime scenes, where someone opens fire and leaves the scene immediately. We are talking about crimes that are committed and take place for hours, days and weeks. Building illegally is a crime as stipulated by the Criminal Code Procedures of the Republic of Albania. It is like any other crime, envisaging even stiffer penalties and these crime scenes take place right at the eyes of the policemen, who are obliged by law to act immediately. And this is nothing else but corruption. This is definitely corruption, bribery, vileness, abomination, ugliness.

On the other hand, what I see as a real problem in the State Police is the permanent lack of knowledge of the law, legal norms and principles on which the State Police operate. It doesn’t suffice for the police officials to know and enforce the law, since every policemen and officer should know and enforce the law properly in every corner of the territory. The State Police should become a centre of knowhow for the technology and innovation, the legal and administrative practices, a centre of best practice and decent contact and for such a centre to fully work the continuing education, training and constant tests within the police structures. We all need to learn things on daily basis as there are always things we need to learn.

The goal behind the recent State Police reshuffle is clear – and it is a goal materialized in individuals with real name, who head today police directorates thanks to the trust of the State Police Director General in them –is that they take over the police management in this new phase through their professionalism, integrity and performance. It is a previously planned new phase that was accelerated because of the most recent events. The new plan is designed to take State Police to a European level through figures and standards.

If I were to list the priorities based on figures, I would say that the relation with the citizens is the top priority, and it requires that the police patrols, the traffic police, the border police undergo a far-reaching reform and reshuffle in order to promote police officers just like you were recently promoted and have earned trust to safeguard correct conduct and relation with the citizens. It wouldn’t take many, but few individuals in the police rank to behave inappropriately and degrade image of everyone else. The number of such individuals is very small, yet sufficient to tarnish image of whole State Police.

Full control over the territory in terms of uncompromisingly protecting public property and the environment is the number two priority for the State Police. It is no longer tolerable that illegal activities take place all over the body of Albania. The State Police are the guardians to safeguard the territory of this country.

The operation to demolish the illegal buildings, which has been temporarily suspended because of the tourist season, to resume in September, should be a permanent operation until last illegal building in the country’s coastal and tourist areas is demolished and totally removed. However, I would like to underline something and this is something I have already discussed with the Interior Minister and the State Police chief. The Criminal Code stipulates that every individual involved in illegal construction activities should face prosecution. It doesn’t matter whether an illegal construction was identified today or tomorrow. It doesn’t matter at all. It is impossible for the state and the citizens to bear the cost of whole this operation and energies spent to demolish the illegal buildings in the coastal areas.

According to the Criminal Code, an individual involved in illegal construction should be sent to prison. This is what the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania clearly stipulates. Most importantly, the law stipulates that not only the initiators, the investors, or the owners of the construction companies, but every person involved in illegal construction activities should be sent to prison, because one cannot claim he is an engineer and he was unware whether a construction permit has been issued for a building, just like a truck driver cannot claim that he is unware that a drug haul was loaded on his truck. It is exactly the same thing. Therefore, careful reading of all the changes and strict enforcement of the law is an absolute priority for the new police directors.

Unique law enforcement standard, and not double standards, is the third priority for the State Police. Decisive fight against double standards. There could be no double standards in enforcing the same law, and the State Police should be the example and reflection of this fact. Everyone should learn from the State Police that this is not only legally binding, but also possible. How come that police are unable to control 28,000 square kilometres to prevent abusive activities that take plane openly? I agree with you when it comes to the lowered crime rate, which takes patience and is accomplished gradually and there is a limit to that, because if it was really possible for the crime to be cut to zero rate, this would have been accomplished by other countries firs. One of the most powerful police forces, if not the most powerful one, the United States police have to deal with homicide, assassination attempts and injuries on daily basis. Therefore, I am on your side when it comes to this issue and I am not with the moralists and commentators, who know nothing what they are talking about. However, when it comes to the control over the territory and the illegal activities that take place openly, I am sorry but I am up against each and every one of you who would try to justify this as a normal and natural thing. This is not natural. This is heinous, this is disgraceful, to describe it properly as we haven’t come together to take stock of successes and accomplishments. The State Police have definitely achieved major successes, but we are here today to highlight the deficiencies and show the wounds that the you, the new police directors should act immediately to heal.

The number four priority for the State Police is certainly not a priority that it is not only the State Police or the district police directors the ones who should deliver on, but it is primarily the government and the Ministry of Interior that should further advance the technological revolution in the State Police. Police have now a new fleet of vehicles, yet they still need strong support to technologically monitor whole territory.

To this end, we are intensively working around the clock so that we make sure that the main roads throughout the country’s territory are monitored by surveillance security cameras, enabling the police to have an eye on the territory through the technology and so that policemen no longer are deployed to the roads and instead they are deployed to other sensitive areas. Likewise, we are working to equip a larger number of police officers with body cameras, and make available to the State Police and other police structures the most advanced drone technology to monitor the territory 24 hours a day, practically having an eye in the sky to provide real time information on every possible cannabis plant, every illegal building, any illegal forest logging, any road traffic problem, any movement of crime elements. We should deliver on this too. I mean not you, but we in the government and the Ministry of Interior.

The last priority is setting another standard through a more advanced technology and with a more rigorous protocol of the Digital Commissariat. The Digital Commissariat has been a great help and now we can afford taking it to whole new level, so that every citizen has the police station in his or her own pocket and that police station becomes your eye and your partner in order to enable you to perform your task and duties very efficiently and successfully.

Regarding the Digital Commissariat program, I will single out a very disturbing element; reports over the domestic violence.

It is really worrisome and a matter for concern that the State Police are not sensitive enough about this phenomenon. It is worrisome that police officers at certain police stations totally ignore the outcry of women and girls who are domestic violence victims. They totally ignore the sufferings and unspeakable pain experienced by those who could have been the wives and sisters of each and every one of us. This is not to comment on. A network of relevant officers should be built within the system. And it should not be merely an issue among many other issues, but a network of officers who are tasked with dealing the domestic violence exclusively. A number of police officers will be tasked exclusively with handling the domestic violence issues in every police station. Every call and report should be treated with maximum commitment and respect for all those women and girls, who unfortunately are murdered. In no case men will be understood when it comes to domestic violence. 

I would like to conclude right where I started with and tell you that the expectations are high and this is a very motivating fact, it is a very inspiring and a very significant fact. Where the expectations are high, confidence that things can be done is present, because the expectations wouldn’t have been as such unless no confidence was there, just like it has been the case in the past, at those dark times when the State Police were abandoned and on their own while facing negative phenomena and when people had no expectations. Today, the expectations are very high. The expectations are very high for me personally and the ruling majority after the general elections, all the structures and the State Police. We have to face this expectation, because this is your achievement.

This is nobody else’s accomplishment. It is your accomplishment that the State Police have been taken to a considerably high level, yet not to the level where you can reach for.

That’s why dissatisfaction haunts the expectations from you. A finger is always pointed to the State Police anytime and for whatever happens. Rightly or unjustly so, it doesn’t matter at all. What really matters in this discussion is that this is a result of the expectations. There is no reason for the citizens to encounter such phenomena I already addressed and you all know quite well. There is no reason for a single citizen of the Republic of Albania to encounter a policeman, who ask him to pull over and ask bribe from him, telling him either to pay the bribe, or lose the driving licence, a policeman who asks someone to pull over in front of the eyes of his wife and children and exerts the miserable role of the kidnaper right there in the middle of the road. This should never happen.

The power of your example lays the foundations for the new upcoming phase. If you would decisively stick to the power of your example, if you would strictly and decisively deliver on all the priorities and the trust you have earned will pay off, not to the director who has appointed you, neither to the Minister, nor I or the government, but to the Albanian people and everything will start to move on the right direction to reach a new level soon.

I want to tell you that you will have 100 days to maximally organize whole police force. Just 100 days. Not a single day more than that. Only 100 days for the citizens to breathe a sigh of relief seeing the State Police reaching a whole new level.

It doesn’t take science, an invention or a fight against the unknown, but simply things you know quite well, things you know how to do, because this is the reason you have been assigned to the new posts. You should deliver on the things that people wish to see as the foundation of the relationship with their state and the police. This should be done by respecting yourselves, respecting the overwhelming majority of the police force, who are correct and they don’t have to pay for a small contingent that should be immediately dismissed from the State Police ranks. They should be removed from the State Police and be sent in front of justice. In every district across the country, clear examples should be provided in the next 100 days to show that there is no impunity in the State Police ranks, and that there could be no police officers who apply double standards. It is not a problem at all for you to identify and send them before justice. 100 days only. This is an unchangeable deadline in every district. 

Thank you very much!