By: Metod Berlec
We talked to the retired director general of the Slovenian police, Jože Romšek, about the situation in the Slovenian police, police work during the new coronavirus epidemic, protests, police strike and the publication of police salaries.
DEMOKRACIJA: Mr Romšek, from the middle of 2005 to the beginning of 2009 you were the director general of the police, that is to say, you probably still know the situation in the police well today. What is it like to run such a big system? If I am not mistaken, in your time the police numbered about 10,000 members.
ROMŠEK: As an interested citizen, I follow events in the country and in state institutions, including the police. I have to say that when I quit my job at Internal Affairs bodies in December 1982, I never really thought I would ever wear a uniform again. I found personal and professional challenges elsewhere, in studying law, learning foreign languages and working first in the field of defence, and later also in the legal, financial and personnel areas of state administration. A web of coincidences led me to take over the leadership of the police in mid 2005. Of course, before that I had to go through a demanding substantive procedure before the competition commission of the Council of Officials, which later directors did not have to go through due to the changed legislation.
Running a large operating system is an extremely difficult task, as each director general of the police is strongly connected between the hammer and the anvil of the profession and politics.
Well, I was not intimidated by the challenge, although I expected serious problems. I was not wrong. Influencers inside and outside the system have been causing problems from the very beginning. In conjunction with left wing political options and journalists, scandals began to ensue. Modus operandi, the main actors and rich rewards for key perpetrators, were exactly the same in the Depala vas affair, the Patria affair as well as a series of other less high-profile affairs, which are no less harmful to society as a whole.
I quickly found out who the people within the police were who acted in violation of professional and moral-ethical rules. They were dismissed and transferred without delay, although I was aware that I would receive revenge and pressure. But I basically did not bother with that, because as a lawyer, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was not existentially dependent on the police, nor was any of my close relatives employed in the police. So I did not have to look at who will resent me and who will not.
I was also not intimidated by criminal charges, when I was always sued “at the right time”. Of course, one by one they were all discarded, but later no one was interested in that anymore, as the media notorious publications themselves achieved the desired goals.
I believe that those responsible for changing criminal law should redefine the crime of false accusation, as the ease of filing unfounded criminal charges has become a kind of “sport” discipline. It is not known to me that anyone has so far been convicted of the crime of false accusation.
Well, over time, I formed a team that I could work with. The vast majority of the closest team performed the assigned tasks correctly and defended the profession. Only in the middle of 2008, at the beginning of the Patria affair, did a minority started turning their coats.
Anyway, I did not resent anyone for anything, and I am proud to have endured in this hot chair the longest of all so far.
DEMOCRACIJA: Was one of the main projects in your time the entry into the Schengen area, which took place in December 2007, or perhaps a more active prosecution of economic crime?
ROMŠEK: Only after staff consolidation at the top of the police were we able to start work. Serious work in the field of economic and organised crime, Slovenia’s entry into the Schengen area, performing lesser-known but very important security activities when exchanging tolars for euros, presiding over the EU Council, securing state interests at the southern state border, improving the very poor situation in the field of logistical matters of the police were our main tasks among all others of course. It was necessary to take care of many cases in the field of economic crime, which had been lying unsolved in the drawers of one of the police departments for many years. I did not clarify the specific reasons for this, which I still deeply regret today. A partial reorganisation was waiting for us, as it was necessary to disconnect the Council for Prevention and Education in Road Traffic from the police budget. A police vicar was hired, and spiritual care was provided for those police officers who wanted it.
During the Slovenian presidency, leading the EPCTF (European Police Chiefs Task Force) was a special challenge for me. This was an informal group of EU police chiefs. The purpose of these meetings was to improve operational cooperation between police chiefs and EU police forces. I took great advantage of this opportunity. I still have personal contacts with most of these people or I can reach them without any reservations.