FEWER desk jobs will mean a more visible police presence.
Interior Minister Vladimír Palko promised to gradually increase the number of officers on the streets by one policeman per day. He said he would continue raising the number of patrol officers, ultimately boosting it from the current 4,300 to about 5,200.
Palko plans to achieve his goal by replacing officers serving in bureaucratic posts at the ministry with civilian employees and putting those police officers replaced on active duty.
Further changes are expected as of January 1 next year when Palko and police president Anton Kulich plan to reorganise the police force by shutting down some of the current regional police directorates and merging them into bigger units to slash bureaucracy as well as the number of police officials.
Of the current 125 regional and district police headquarters only 41 will survive the reshuffle.
"We are boosting police performance by cutting down the [number] of police managers and we are shutting down 76 of the current 125 regional police units," Kulich told journalists on July 30.
"Bureaucratic work should be done by bureaucrats rather than police officers," Palko added.
The new organisational scheme will also be introduced at the country's senior police body, the Police Presidium of the Slovak Republic (PPZSR) by merging special police units such as the finance police, national anti-drug squad, and organized crime unit into one section that would be run by PPZSR vice president Jaroslav Spišiak.
The department that investigates serious crimes, and the so-called special tasks office, would also unite to concentrate on fighting corruption cases, as well as sophisticated economic crime, and crimes in which public officials might be suspected.
Palko also said that the reorganization would also see the so-called justice police including internal affairs investigators merging with the criminal police to "improve conditions for fighting the mafia".
With crime figures on a slight yet continuing rise almost every year since the fall of communism and safety as one of the major concerns of inhabitants of this central European country, some measures prepared by Palko are seen as "proper" by observers.
Head of the parliamentary defence and security committee Robert Kaliňák, a member of opposition party Smer, told The Slovak Spectator on August 4: "Some of the minister's plans are correct but there are some aspects of the reorganization that I think are questionable."
Kaliňák said that he was concerned over the planned merger of the criminal police with the investigators.
"It is true that in some previous cases similar teams were effective, but in general the unification of criminal police and investigators could endanger the independence of the investigators."
Kaliňák as well as some of his committee colleagues, such as independent MP Ladislav Polka, also said they were worried that shutting down several local police headquarters could lead to a decrease of solving petty crimes.
"The new organisation may prove fine for solving high profile cases but I am worried that by shutting down many regional police headquarters, the clean-up rates for solving petty and more common crimes that trouble citizens most may decrease," Kaliňák said.
Slovakia has around 20,000 officers while another 6,600 people work in the police and the Interior Ministry administrations.
Palko admitted that the new reorganisation may also see some officers leave the force - mainly current administrative police officers who may not be willing to return to regular police work and who would prefer to retire.
"Senior officers, in particular, whose jobs will be cut in the reorganization could take on a new [active] police role but I think it is more likely that they will just pack up and leave the force," said Kaliňák.
Palko is not worried that police would be facing lack of qualified officers when the new measures are put in place.
"I don't expect any dramatic changes [in police staff numbers]," Palko said.
11. Aug 2003 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová