Police in Transition: Essays on the Police Forces in Transition Countries

Police in Transition: Essays on the Police Forces in Transition Countries

Police in Transition: Essays on the Police Forces in Transition Countries

Police in Transition: Essays on the Police Forces in Transition Countries

Excerpt

In communist countries, the primary task of the police forces, in common with the other state bodies and institutions, was to sus- tain the political system and safeguard its functioning. The police operated as a subsidiary force of the state security agency: in some cases the two agencies were under the control of separate minis- tries, as in the Soviet Union and the GDR, and in others of a single Interior Ministry, as was the case in Poland and Hungary. Regular police work, such as the detection or prevention of crime, was secondary to the task of maintaining the security of the state.

During the period of transition, in response to criticism from the new political opposition, the ruling party in Hungary devel- oped the concept of a non-political police. The task of the police should not be to represent the interests of the political regime or government, it transpired, but to ensure public safety. The police were no longer to take their orders from the ruling party, but in- stead their responsibilities and powers, and the means of their supervision, were to be defined by law.

As the political changes gathered pace, the objectives of the new democratic parties came into alignment with the internal re- form objectives of the police themselves. The police wanted to be rid of party control: high-ranking police officers were not happy with the priority given to state security and the arrogant sense of superiority it epitomized. Political expediency was replaced by the principles of professionalism, organizational independence, and decentralization of the police, all of which were in direct opposi- tion to party control.

At the same time—that is, before and during the period of change—both state and police leaders sought to expand police authority. From 1985 on, for instance, while restrictions on free- dom of expression and foreign travel were gradually being lifted in Hungary, time limits for holding suspects in custody and police . . .

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