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    • Corruption deteriorates citizens’ trust in the police

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    • Date: 22 July 2015
      Corruption is the second biggest problem on the Western Balkans, right after the unemployment, and citizens are especially affected by the corruption within police force, the institution which should conduct its eradication the most, according to the survey of public opinion on police integrity.

      Citizens’ trust in the police within the region is below the international average, and the majority perceives the police as the force apparatus which serves the interests of political parties, the Government and the people on the top of police hierarchy, and only one quarter of citizens perceives the police as the service to citizens, it was stated at the conference organized by the Belgrade Center for Security Policy on 22 July 2015 in the Media Center.

      Two disturbing information were noticed during conduction survey within the project "Pulse of integrity and trust in the police in the Western Balkans (POINTPULSE) ". Firstly, event three quarters of citizens believe that corruption is a usual occurrence in every segment of society, and also within the police, secondly, citizens offer bribe to police officer by themselves in majority of cases. 

      "These data show that corruption is becoming a “common law” and it is a very big problem. Citizens usually offer a bribe to police officers on their own initiative. Citizens are not the only ones to be blamed for this problem, but also the police officers because they eventually receive bribes. What also complicates the process of police reform is the fact that the citizens perceive officers in high positions as most corrupt, " stated BCSP Researcher Sasa Djordjevic, who is also the project coordinator.

      Every 12th citizen who came into contact with the keepers of law and order gave the bribe to police officers, which is four per cent of all adult citizens, according to a survey conducted in Serbia. To avoid a penalty or to receive some sort of favor, citizens usually give money and gifts to police officers, and also in not rare occasions, pay for dinner or lunch, or offer a counter favor.

      In the opinion of 70% of citizens, police belongs in top five most corrupt institutions, after Health, Judiciary, Customs and Market inspection. The trend in public opinion that is visible for some time is to perceive traffic police as the most corrupt, and more and more citizens identify corruption among police officers who deal with economic crime and also in border police.

      BCSP researcher Djordjevic pointed out as a positive data that citizens’ trust in police is, indeed, growing.

      "In comparison to research conducted two years ago, Serbian citizens' trust in the police has increased by five percent. The greatest trust have the citizens aged over 60 years, and those who have completed primary school, and the least trust in police is among the population from 30 to 44 years with high or higher education. However, the Serbian police with 52 % citizens who trust in it, remains in last place in the region, behind counterparts from Bosnia and Herzegovina with 54, Kosovo with 56 ,and Montenegro with 58 %. The whole region in this respect is still far from international standards, which go up to 90 % of the citizens' trust in the police," said Djordjevic.

      Citizens' trust in the police depends on public performances of leading people and presenting the results of their work in the media, but the people at the same time acquire their own direct experience from contacts with the police, pointed out BCSP researcher Bojan Elek.

      "In citizens ‘eyes, a typical policemen in the Western Balkans has the image of insolent, corrupt and ignorant. It is interesting that the Kosovo police was best evaluated by the citizens in terms of professionalism and orientation towards citizens, but also in Kosovo giving bribes to the police is the most often, twice as often than in Serbia and three times more often than in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the most expensive to bribe a police officer in Kosovo, because the usual bribe is  20 euros, while in Serbia the usual bribe amounts to 2.000 RSD,  and in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro about 10 euros. Kosovo also stands out for the fact that people often give a bribe at the request of a police officer, while in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, the bribe is given on citizens’ initiative in larger extent”, said Elek.
      The study also found that only a third of the citizens of the region believe that one can acquire a job in the police through public competition, but the majority thinks that a way to a job in police is through friendships, relatives, and political connections, stated Elek. Over 80% of citizens believe that there is an influence of political parties on operational police work and it is one of the key obstacles for depoliticization of the police, which should be the main priority in the process of creating a responsible officer, along with the strengthening of internal controls and the fight against corruption.

      The survey was conducted in June 2015 on a representative sample in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

      The questionnaire was designed by the BCSP, together with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Centre for Security Studies from Sarajevo, Institute Alternative from Podgorica and Kosovo Centre for Security Studies in Priština. Field research was conducted by Ipsos agency.

      The conference is part of the project "Western Balkans Pulse for Police Integrity and Trust - POINTPULSE", supported by the European Union through the support of civil society. Views expressed herein represent the views of the BCSP and do not reflect the views of the European Union.

      Report was contributed by BCSP Intern Marija Djordjevic

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