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Disciplinary measures for senior police chiefs

Dr Vinko Gorenak. (Photo: Demokracija archive)

By: Dr Vinko Gorenak

When I was still serving in the uniformed police in 1989, in fact I was its regional leader in Celje, the uniformed part of the police dealt with disciplinary violations of uniformed police officers quite accurately and consistently. If I think realistically, there are not even significant differences in the sharpness and consistency of the approach to this issue between that time and today. It was completely different in the criminal part of the police, where disciplinary proceedings were practically unknown. But I need to be more precise. Disciplinary proceedings in uniformed police applied to police officers, however practically never to their bosses. Disciplinary responsibility ended with the assistant commanders of local police stations, it practically never went higher.

When I became an adviser to Interior Minister Igor Bavčar in 1990, we, on my initiative, also first addressed the issue of complaints against the work of police officers, and consequently of disciplinary and criminal proceedings, the same for everyone, i.e. uniformed police officers and criminal investigators. I can assess that we have made significant progress in this area, and the disciplinary and criminal liability of uniformed police officers and criminal investigators has begun to materialise much better. But we have never reached the highest regional and state levels of police organisation in totality. In such and other ways, the highest police chiefs avoided particularly disciplinary liability, but much less criminal liability. You know the transfer to another job, and leaving the police for personal reasons and the like.

This introduction was entirely purposeful, as what should have happened a long time ago happened yesterday. Three senior police chiefs at the regional level in Ljubljana (I do not deal with names, although I may even know them personally), were disciplined with a so-called reprimand before the termination of the employment contract. These were irregularities in police action during the June national celebration against the so-called “yellow jackets”. I wrote about it back then, you can read the post HERE. Even then, it was clear to me that both Jenull’s troublemakers and the “yellow jackets” violated the same laws in exactly the same way. But the police physically removed ten and a few yellow jackets and not a few thousand Jenull’s troublemakers. From a police-tactical point of view, the police have a single task in such cases, when opposing protesters find themselves in the same place, and that is to prevent a clash between them. I also accept that the police removed ten and a few “yellow jackets” because that is easier than a few thousand Jenull’s troublemakers. But if the police chiefs who commanded the police decided to make such a move, then they should just take the “yellow jackets” to the next street and not allow them to come to the protest site of Jenull’s troublemakers. But that did not happen. Police chiefs ordered the detention of the “yellow jackets” for a few hours and, of course, fined them. Why again? Did Jenull’s troublemakers not break exactly the same laws? Of course they did. The mistake is that the police chiefs did not treat them equally (we are all equal before the law). Make no mistake. Everything I have written and am writing today is based on data I have from the media. I have no other information, especially police information.

Honestly, when this was happening, in June this year, and when the Director General of the Police, Dr Anton Olaj announced an internal police investigation, I did not even believe that disciplinary measures would be imposed on the three high-ranking regional police chiefs in Ljubljana. Firstly, because at least until now it was more or less the case that such high-ranking police chiefs could not be hit by something like that, and secondly, because I almost did not believe that Dr Anton Olaj and the investigators would carry the investigation to the end, as they say. The investigation could also end with local police field leaders with some warning. This is one of the reasons why I am positively surprised today, and in this context, I can only praise and acknowledge both the investigators and Dr Anton Olaj for his correct and professional work, no matter how the matter ends, most likely in court. In this type of police work, the police officers are bound by the so-called commands of the leaders, so the police officers themselves, as a rule, cannot do anything without the orders of the leaders. Measures of Dr Anton Olaj are therefore completely in place. All the talk about how the police are literally boiling, of course, has no basis. It can boil between police chiefs, to whom Dr Anton Olaj, with this move, took away some kind of immunity, and police officers can only applaud such moves, as they have been subject to disciplinary proceedings since time immemorial, and police chiefs are now equated with them.

But the matter has even wider dimensions. Never in history do I remember a right wing political side protesting against any disciplinary proceedings against police officers at any level. Now this has happened, but by the left political option. I do not know if I spotted all the political reactions, but I noticed the reaction of far-left Tanja Fajon, SD president, and her left wing political extremists, who link the imposition of disciplinary sanctions on senior police chiefs to political subordination of the police. Discarded and completely unacceptable, as is their worship of statues of murderers. These people, on the one hand, condemn the glorification of Hitler (which is right, of course), but at the same time they bow down to the communist assassins, whose political successors they are, of course. You remember the statement of MP Marko Koprivec that they are the proud successors of the Communists.

Something similar applies to the Slovenian Police Union (SPS). It is true that it is the job of the union to legally help its members. Whether the three senior police officers were helped or not, I do not know. I would sooner expect them to be members of the Police Union of Slovenia (PSS), which unites police chiefs to a greater extent than the SPS. However, the gossip of SPS chief Kristjan Mlekuž that this is a matter of political pressure on the police, presumably also a threat to national security, is of course completely rejecting and legitimises him as a left wing political activist and not a trade unionist, which he has repeatedly proven.

But things are also predictable for a few days in advance. Namely, I have not noticed any on-duty commentator – a connoisseur of police procedures, who would comment on the matter. In the time of pickles, of course, this will also happen.

Dr Vinko Gorenak is a State Secretary in the PV Cabinet, a former Member of the National Assembly and Minister of the Interior, a university professor and a member of the SDS.

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