By: Davorin Kopše
By its nature the police are a hierarchical system, where operational work processes take place according to the principle of subordination. This means that subordinates at all levels are obliged to carry out the order of the superior. In this environment, we are not talking so much about rights, but above all about duties. The police and, within this, individual police officers are obliged to carry out lawful orders, which must be proportionate to what is happening. When required by law, the police may also issue an order relating to the population. One such example is the dissolution of a rally. There is no philosophy here, so there is no room for philosophers either.
Anyone who follows current events in Slovenia could hear an important message from the Director General of the Police, Anton Olaj, regarding the principle of subordination. He said that in the past the police led the director, but now the police are led by him. He also made it clear that unions are no longer allowed to interfere in the management of the police. Of course, the new and only correct way cannot be enforced overnight, but we were able to see significant positive consequences last week. We were able to establish that Slovenia has an excellently trained police force for taming violent protests, but that in the past there was often no will to resolutely exercise its powers.
The police are finally led by its director
We have seen the Slovenian police intervene recently, but last Tuesday, given the scope of the intervention, it showed the highest level of coordinated and therefore effective action. The public has learned that the head of the Ljubljana police, Boštjan Glavič, was replaced at his own request, but some do not believe this. It does not matter, but something is clear. If he did not leave voluntarily, he would have to be replaced for reasons. During his time, the police asked the protesters to stop mass violations of public order, and at the last protest they received an order. This is also an important message.
The order to disperse the crowd in case of mass violations of public order cannot be revoked
The Public Gatherings Act is perfectly clear. When the police unequivocally establish at an unreported protest that there has been a mass violation of public order or that traffic has been obstructed, they are required by law to dissolve such a rally. The law also dictates that in this case, the police call on the crowd to disperse peacefully. If this is not taken into account, the police disperse the crowd. Nowhere does it say they can do it, which means they have to do it because it is their duty. It is also nowhere written that the police will not disperse the protesters if they stop mass violations of public order. Once the command has been issued, it is executed and that is final. From the order for the crowd to disperse, the violation is that the crowd does not follow this command.
Last Tuesday, the crowd did not calm down after the dissolution, but on the contrary. At the invitation of Zlatan Čordić, they headed to the streets of Ljubljana. This means not only the continuation of infringements, but a new infringement. According to the guidelines of the first organiser of violent and unreported protests, Zoran Stevanović, the crowd intended to occupy the streets and paralyse part of the city again. At Čordić’s request, this was also the intention, which they partially realised on Šubičeva ulica, Slovenska cesta, Tržaška cesta and some surrounding roads, but this time they failed to block the traffic on the access road and on the bypass. As we know, they succeeded in this six days before, when they blocked Celovška cesta to the northern bypass, and then only the bypass.
The lawful order of the police to disperse the crowd peacefully is therefore a turning point. There is no way back and the crowd is obliged to carry out the order. If the crowd disobeys the order, the police force the crowd to carry out the order by escalating force. If such an order were revoked by the police, it would achieve a new negative effect, as their orders would no longer be credible in the continuation of the same and subsequent events. At Tuesday’s protests, the scenario unfolded just as it should have. By taking concrete action, the police have given a clear message that they will no longer tolerate violence.
Proportionality principle and peaceful protesters
In general, the principle of proportionality prohibits excessive interference with any rights. In police language, this means that the police must, by law, use so much force as to ensure the establishment of a lawful situation or the execution of a task. In the case of violent protests, this is the establishment of public order and peace.
Given the criticism of politicians and some philosophers that the police have gone beyond the principle of proportionality, there is only one question to ask. Could the police carry out their task merely by asking the crowd to stop the violations, as we have seen in the past? The answer is in the palm of your hand. Of course not. Evidence can be found in the past actions of the police, when they actually helplessly asked the crowd to stop the violations, which the other side ignored. This is also why we see from protest to protest more frantic protesters jumping like monkeys on road surfaces and blocking traffic, throwing granite blocks, torches and other pyrotechnics and physically bumping into police officers in one way or another.
The claim that the protesters came to the gathering place with peaceful intentions and that the protests were peaceful is, to put it mildly, philosophical nonsense. After the hostile mood and the shouting of aggressive slogans alone, it was possible to determine that this was an aggressive group. This, as in several previous protests, was confirmed by the intervention of the already mentioned granite cubes and pyrotechnic devices, which they more than obviously brought with them for this very purpose. They brought them with them! At the beginning of the above-mentioned words of the Director General of the Police, Anton Olaj, who has been leading the police since his inauguration and who led it before, could be described as historic. Given the facts about the hierarchy and the rationale for subordination, this is not only right, but a part of the legality of the operation of the system by which the police are organised.
Street events involving violent coups are becoming increasingly impatient and violent. Violence comes in waves and the trend is growing. One time the protesters are less violent; the other time they erupt in their brutal primitiveness. This is why the security challenge is serious, and the police must be determined and consistent. Duplicate messages are out of the question. Some philosophers and other unprofessional bystanders demand just that.
Denial of the right to security to a political party
Regional meetings of members and supporters of the Slovenian Democratic Party continued on Saturday. One of these meetings took place in Marezige above Koper. Revolutionary so-called People’s Assembly mobilised its extremists who came to this place in Primorska region to disrupt a peaceful political event of the Slovene Democratic Political Party on Slovene soil. An uncivilised intention was announced on social networks, so the police were prepared and successfully ensured the safe execution of the event through their intervention.
This has already been a problem in terms of the perception of democracy, and responses are an even bigger problem. We should be particularly concerned about the views of the political parties, which have condemned the presence of the police, which also ensured public order and peace in Marezige. Some pointed out that it was an inadmissible use (even abuse) of the police for political purposes because they were doing their job. Anyone who perceives the police as a civil service to abandon their basic duty to protect public order and peace just because the opposing political party gathered there is a huge stranger in a democracy.
Davorin Kopše is a veteran of the war for Slovenia, a candidate for the European Parliament and an active citizen.