CoE and OSCE representatives visited Serbia in April 2002. They were tasked to produce a joint report with recommendations and an implementation strategy to improve police internal and external accountability.
As Serbia becomes a stable democracy in the Balkans, it is important that the democratic process is firmly entrenched within the constitution to such an extent that changes of government will not unduly influence this, nor be thought likely to, particularly by foreign investors.
To establish such stability it is crucial that policing is both democratic and free from political interference. This requires high levels of accountability both within and outwith the organisation. Such accountability must reflect the values of democratic policing; otherwise the police would have the freedom to act in an undemocratic way and not be able to be called to account by the citizens it polices. Therefore, to make clear the underlying purpose of this report and its recommendations, the primary values of democratic policing are explained here, derived from first principles.
For a democracy to be free of coercion or a police state, policing must be with the general consent of the public. This applies both to what the police do (or chose not to do) and to how they do it. There must be an agreement between the public and the police over the degree of freedom the public are to have. Partly this is prescribed by
laws, passed by the democratically elected government and parliament, but partly there needs to be an ongoing dialogue between police and citizens over the style of policing and any limitation of police powers.
This report spells out the model for ‘democratic policing’ but it does not dictate how that can best be interpreted for Serbia. That is an issue of implementation and consultation and will itself change over the next few years as society’s expectations of the police change. The given recommendations are therefore the bare minimum to be undertaken in order that democratic policing is sustained and corruption brought under control. Corruption can never be eliminated, nor has this ever been achieved in any country. Accountability requires that there is a means of redress and systems to discover it, investigate it and deal with it. But without this brought under control, the concept of police accountability has little value.