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Round table: Police in the Modern Society: The Necessary Reform in Bulgaria
On 25 May 2009 at the “Iztok” hall of the Bulgarian National Assembly, the Center for the Study of Democracy with the cooperation of the Internal Security and Public Order Committee to the National Assembly, organized a round table, dedicated to the problems of internal security, the state of the national police and the necessary measures to reform the sector and restore public confidence.

The round table was opened by Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Center for the Study of Democracy, and by Ambassador John Ordway, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Bulgaria. In his opening remarks, Dr. Shentov pointed out that the reform of the police is part of the overall reform of the security sector in Bulgaria. There are three important prerequisites for successful reforms: political will for a change, pro-active civil society (public support) and commitment of Bulgaria’s euro-atlantic partners. Now in Bulgaria, for first time in a while, these prerequisites are present. In his speech Ambassador John Ordway stressed that the trust of the citizens in their police is of extreme importance for the results. When a citizen calls 166, he expects cooperation and help. Ambassador Ordway mentioned that at the moment the technical support, as well as the operational cooperation between the respective services of Bulgaria and USA, are giving good results, especially in the combat against drug trafficking.

Mr. Chavdar Chervenkov, Director of the European Program at the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the Police in the Modern Society: the Necessary Reform in Bulgaria report. The report summarizes the results of the comparative studies and analysis, showing the state of the security sector and the Bulgarian police, refracted through the results of the statistical data of Eurostat, the official statistics of the Ministry of Interior and the results of the national victimization studies of the Center for the Study of Democracy. Analysis of the data shows that there remains a relatively high degree of mistrust in the work of the police and dissatisfaction with the outcome of the fight against crime. This poses serious risks to the relationship police – citizens and the state of internal security as a whole. To formulate the stages of the reform, the survey suggests the preparation of a White Paper on Internal Security as a part of a new National Security Strategy of the country, as well as linking the police work with the overall government policy by developing a system of national indicators to assess efficiency through rethinking of the security policies and a new approach to financing the system of internal security.The main purpose of the changes should be increased transparency and public control tools of the system, together with bringing the security service to its users – the citizens.

Dr. Veselin Vuchkov, Deputy Minister of the Interior, stressed that the Bulgarian police should be more decisively constructed on criminal procedure rails. This means gradual elimination of the police filters of the recorded crime and transformation of the outcome of criminal proceedings into a major criterion for evaluation of police work. Furthermore, reform of the operational-search activities is needed towards the abandonment of the quantitative approach to the expense of quality. Deputy Minister Vuchkov noted that the taken short term measures were aimed at unblocking the system. Currently, extensive work is to be done to achieve a more orderly security system, in order to provide comprehensive services to the civil society and the state institutions.

Mr. Anastas Anastasov, Chairman of the Internal Security and Public Order Committee to the National Assembly, stressed on the importance of carrying out a review of the state of Internal Security, in order to create a stable foundation on which the reform should stand. An important issue that should be approached very carefully is the question of creating conditions for the decentralization of police work and the establishment of municipal police. Mr. Anastasov pointed out that the Committee is ready to support a project for a higher budget of the Ministry of Interiorand. In the end he called for broad participation in the fight against crime involving a wide range of government departments, institutions and the NGO sector.

Mr. Boyko Slavchev, Head of the Cabinet of the Minister of Interior said that some of the structural changes made last year have created additional difficulties for the work of the system.For example, the closure of CDCOC and the creation of General Directorate Pre-trial Proceedings has essentially distanced crime detection from crime investigation. He also noted that serious reform in this sector would be needed.

The Deputy Prosecutor General Valery Parvanov indicated some inconsistencies in the statistics of the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor General's Office. The main reason for this, according to him, is the still inactive single integrated information system for law enforcement authorities. As far as the efficiency of the system is concerned, he pointed out the low quality of evidence. There is a clear need for technical re-equipping of the police to decisively improve the quality of work. For reasons “unknown perpetrator” and “statute-barred” last year 600 000 proceedings were terminated, and for the same reason this year there will be about the same number of terminated proceedings.

Mr. Konstantin Penchev, Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court stated that a World Bank study recently showed that the Bulgarian judicial system is among the most expensive, but at the same time least efficient judicial systems in the world. The reason for this is the unreformed system in which all invested money is lost. According to him the same case applies to the Ministry of Interior. He wished the success of the reform.

The Round Table was closed by Mr. Tzvetan Tzvetanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. He stated that the main goal of the reform in the Ministry of Interior is to restore confidence in the system. All elements of the reform will be subjected to this goal. In his statement, he outlined the work done so far to improve coordination and interaction between law enforcement and judicial authorities, the creation of specialized units for investigation and others. But this is only the beginning. The next step will be an integrated information system, and this issue will find its place in the strategy for the security sector. He added that there is political will to begin in September working on a strategy for national security and in particular for internal security.

The Minister stressed on his understanding that the police must be as close as possible to the people. The police officer should be the person who is familiar to the people in the neighborhood and they do not hesitate to ask him for assistance.

As an important condition for the success of the reform, the minister pointed out the need of a broad political consensus, maximum transparency and broad participation of civil society representatives.

Agenda (Adobe PDF, 25 KB)
The brochure "Police in the Modern Society: The Necessary Reform in Bulgaria"

Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)

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