Improving the relationship between the Albanian police and its citizens; this is the purpose of the community policing reform that Sweden supports over a three-year period. Building bridges between different actors will increase confidence in the rule of law and make policing more effective.
Reforming the Albanian police is not only an important step towards approaching EU standards and a coveted membership, it is also a national concern to make the country’s institutions more democratic and functional.
“We want a police organisation that is a service provider. That doesn’t just involve changing the way the police are working; the entire philosophy of community policing work is based on building partnerships with the citizens”, says Robert Korkuti, Programme Manager of the Swedish-Albanian community policing programme.
There is a lot of work ahead of them. The general public used to have a negative image of a centralized, inefficient police force, which is a remnant from the communist era. A survey carried out in autumn 2013 has shown that only 35 per cent of the citizens have confidence in the police. The remaining 65 per cent do not trust their effectiveness or ability to solve crimes. Changing that image requires better cooperation between the police and the citizens. But change takes time; there is no shift of values and norms in a society in just three years. The programme can nevertheless contribute to increasing knowledge about the things that don’t work and to developing good tools for creating sustainable change.
“We work on two levels: one overall strategic level that that will make a long-term change of the role of the police and its way of working, and one grass-roots level where it’s easier to see more concrete results of an increased willingness by different civil stakeholders to cooperate with the police”, he says.
The community policing programme consists of three components: 1) building partnerships with the general public with a focus on youth, to increase trust and cooperation with the police, 2) broadening social efforts to reduce domestic violence and 3) reforming police performance management to increase efficiency and monitor progress of work.
If the first two components are based on improving relations with citizens, the performance management is instead an internal process, though very much fed from opinions of the citizens. In order to measure improvements in the police practices, it’s necessary to have a starting point. The first step has therefore been to conduct a survey with the general public to get their views on domestic violence and cooperation with the police, as well as suggestions on how to improve things. That information will then be a starting point to measure progress.
This year (2014), a national awareness campaign on domestic violence will be launched in Albania, and a manual on how to manage and prevent this type of violence has just been developed. The manual is followed up by a cycle of training throughout the country with all DV practitioners. It is important to involve different kinds of actors in society, not just the police, to prevent violence and offer support to those affected.
Police Academy for kids
As part of the community policing programme’s work on the grassroots level, NGOs and individuals can come up with suggestions for activities that can build partnerships. A locally elected committee then selects the best proposals that receive funding through a small grants scheme. Up to date 50 small grant projects are implemented throughout the country. Despite being diverse, the standard of all projects is to invite police officers to visit schools and discuss issues such as road safety, bullying and drugs. If this is a common feature among schoolchildren in Sweden, it is a very new approach in Albania, where the police presence in schools is mostly connected with maintaining security.
“Two of the best initiatives came from female police officers in Tirana. They invited a number of seventh graders to participate in a ‘Kids Police Academy’, where they got to learn about basic criminal investigation, participate in exercises and then get a diploma. The kids were very happy and the cooperation with the schools will continue and expand”, says Robert Korkuti.
Sweden´s support to the community policing programme is an important contribution to the country’s own initiated efforts; the police is developing a seven-year strategy focused on community policing and the entire reform process is strongly supported by the country's new government. Robert Korkuti stresses the importance of establishing a national ownership of the programme. The fact that he himself has worked as a police officer for 23 years makes him well versed in the existing problems.
The community policing reform in Albania intends to increase citizens' trust in the police force, thus helping to prevent and solve more crimes. However, establishing the kind of community policing as in Sweden – with a decentralized organisation, local station houses and officers who patrol around the neighbourhood – might not become fully possible during the lifespan of this programme.
“What we are doing now is mainly trying to convince people of a different way of thinking, based on the needs of community. But we do have a vision of one day working according to the Swedish model”, concludes Robert Korkuti.
Having the Swedish model of community policing as a vision, several good practises are being piloted and the implementation of the Local Safety Measurement System is one of them. The System is introduced in 30 pilot areas throughout Albania. Two other successful interventions are; the national wide improvement of the service delivery to the public in the police stations, and piloting the “web constable”.
The local ownership is considered one of the main challenges of the Programme. Aiming at a gradual and institutional hand-over of the assignments carried out by the programme, an exit strategy has been drafted and approved and is currently being implemented jointly with the Ministry of Interior and Albanian State Police.
About the programme
Sweden is the sole donor of The Swedish-Albanian Community Policing Programme with a total of 25 million Swedish Crowns (SEK). The programme will run between March 2012 and February 2015. The programme is implemented by SIPU International.
The overall goal of the programme is to improve the ability of the Albanian police force to provide safety and security, and to increase trust in and willingness from individuals and communities to cooperate and actively work with the police to reduce crime.
The program aims to result in:
- Implementation of an evidence-based performance management system that makes it possible for the police to measure their performance and use their resources more efficiently.
- The police being able to solve and prevent more crimes by cooperating with the public.
- Stakeholders, including the police, who work against domestic violence being better able to deliver services to handle and reduce these types of crimes, including providing support to victims.