Reports of the Ombudsman, human rights organizations, and the Ministry of Interior show that citizens’ perception about trust in the State Police has decreased in the last two years. These structures reveal an increasing number of citizens’ complaints against State Police employees. Although it was the individual responsibility of the “Shqiponja” (Eagle) Forces office, the murder of the 25-year-old, Klodian Rasha, in the early hours of December 8th, would provoke controversy, reactions and opposition, which further worsened the public general perception about the State Police.
“The State Police is a state structure that enjoys a high level of public trust, and surveys show that the police is ranked as one of the most reliable institutions.” – the Minister of Interior, Sandër Lleshaj, stated on January 13th, during the inauguration of RENEA unit.
However, a 2019 survey conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation, IDM, with the support of UNDP Albania, showed that only 55% of respondents trusted the State Police, thus marking a 3% decrease from the previous year.
Public trust, 2015-2019, source: IDM
“In 2019, national institutions that had high trust rates from over half of the respondents were: religious institutions (65.6%), armed forces (59.4%), educational institutions (57.3%), civil society organizations (56.3%), the state police (54.6%).” – IDM report shows.
Thus, the survey revealed that the public mostly trusts religious institutions, Armed Forces, educational institutions, civil society, and then the State Police.
Other data indirectly emphasizing public dissatisfaction with the State Police is the number of complaints against its employees.
145 complaints for violation of rights by the structures or employees of the Ministry of Interior and the State Police, addressed to the Ombudsman in 2019. Complaints were mainly related to:
- physical or psychological abuse at the time of arrest, escort or interrogation by the police;
- inhuman and undignified treatment in police institutions;
- illegal escorting or detention beyond the legal deadline;
- failure to receive, administer and follow up with reports or complaints made by citizens;
- obstruction of the exercise of the constitutional right to assembly;
- harm to citizens’ health through tear gas during rallies.
Over 1,700 complaints were filed with the Internal Affairs and Complaints Service in 2019, regarding the activity of State Police employees.
Complaints against police officers, Source: IACS
Based on complaints filed with the IACS, 3 police officers were found to have committed a criminal offense, while another 215 had committed administrative violations.
Even during 2020, the Internal Affairs and Complaints Service at the Ministry of Interior reports increasing complaints of citizens against State Police employees.
“It has been noted that during January – September 2020, there has been a 36% increase as compared to the same period a year ago.” – the report of the Ministry of Interior stated, referring to citizens’ complaints against State Police employees.
Complaints reported against State Police employees, Source: IACS
What has happened to the decreasing trust in the State Police in the last two years?
The use of tear gas, and in some cases, violence by the State Police during protests organized by the opposition party, residents of Bregu i Lumit and Astir areas, or supporters of the National Theater, seem to have “contributed” to lowering the perception of citizens’ trust in the State Police.
In April 2019, the State Police used tear gas to break the resistance of several residents in Bregu i Lumit area in Tirana, who opposed the demolition of their homes. In November 2019, the same thing happened to residents of Unaza e Re area. In May 2020, tear gas and even violence was exercised against protester who opposed the demolition of the National Theater.
The October 2020 report of the European Commission stated: “The efficient implementation of the Ombudsman recommendations by the public administration should be more systematic.”
The European Commission report identified cases of violence against media journalists by the State Police.
“Several journalists were injured as they were caught between protesters and police, during street protests organized by the opposition. A journalist was beaten while reporting on a police operation in Dibra. The police apologized for what they considered an accident.” – the European Commission said in the report.
Regarding the murder of the young man, 25-year-old, Klodian Rasha, the Albanian Helsinki Committee called for an objective investigation.
“It is important to understand that the role of the police is not to punish or sanction violations or offenders. On their job, police officers may encounter individuals who have been involved in the most punishable behaviors. However, the role of the police is to investigate and bring the suspects before the justice. If the police tries to punish suspected offenders through the use of force, the foundation of the rule of law is undermined.” – a response from the Albanian Helsinki Committee states.