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Police – fighting crime and staffing shortages

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It is clear that no less important than the state’s external security is also its internal security, which the public faces in the most direct way on a daily basis. State and municipal police patrols, maintenance of public order, prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences – these are the processes which take place literally every day in plain sight of the residents.

According to the conducted survey, the opinion of the residents of the Baltic States regarding the capabilities of law enforcement institutions to protect the public correlates to a certain extent with the society’s attitude towards the external security factors and the resources allocated thereto. When responding to the question “In your opinion, to what extent are the national political and law enforcement institutions able to protect the observance of human rights and freedoms?”, full reliance on these institutions was revealed by a mere 3% of the interviewed residents of Latvia. A percentage point higher support was detected in Lithuania, whereas full confidence in the law enforcement institutions in Estonia was stated by 8% of respondents.[42]

Law enforcement institutions are trusted to a large extent by 26% of the respondents in Latvia, 30% in Lithuania and 38% in Estonia, whereas, the opinion about these institutions as being unable to protect the respect of human rights and freedoms was expressed by 17% of the interviewees in Estonia, 24% in Lithuania and 30% in Latvia. [42]

According to public data available, at least as far as the situation in Latvia is concerned, there is no reason for optimism whatsoever. Of the approximately 6,000 job positions in law enforcement, the recruitment rate is approximately 77%, and approximately 1,000 of the total of 1,600 vacancies are soon to be eliminated, since it is clear that filling them is impossible because of an acute shortage of suitable candidates.[11] The only support to the law enforcement efforts is provided by the municipal police force established and active in the majority of municipalities in Latvia, performing the functions of Public Order Police and it is fully financed from the municipal budgets.

The reasons for the unfavourable situation with the State Police did not appear in one day. The police have been struggling against shortages of funds, resources, highly qualified officers; working in pitiful conditions, receiving miserable salaries and struggling with other problems. The problem related to the shortage of educated and qualified officers was even further exacerbated by the liquidation of the Police Academy in 2010, under the pretext of inadequate returns to the contributed funds, namely, that this educational institution had prepared more lawyers for private entities than professionals for law enforcement institutions.

Since that time, the only source of educating police personnel has been the State Police College, but the opening of the Internal Security Academy, founded through the cooperation of the Ministry of the Interior, the State Police College, Riga Stradiņš University and the University of Latvia, is scheduled for 2023. [12]

Although the situation about police work in Estonia shows a stark contrast to that in Latvia, problems related to shortages of funds and personnel are also faced by the Estonian law enforcement. Regarding the situation with the recruitment rate, which is around 86% and a significantly higher level of remuneration compared to Latvia, the management of the institution points out that the number of the police, border guard and rescue service employees (all of these institutions operate under the same board) has dropped off to its lowest point ever.

The third Baltic State – Lithuania also faces certain problems. Although, just like in Estonia, the lowest level of remuneration in Lithuania exceeds 1,000 EUR per month, the police force is still understaffed.

However, accurate data regarding vacancies in the entities of the Lithuanian police force are not available. Furthermore, taking into account the specificities related to the subordination of the police entities in all three Baltic States, possibly, one of the most objective statistical indicators in relation to the internal security is the number of police officers per 100,000 residents, the latest data of which are available only for 2020.

Namely, in Latvia, this indicator is 402, in Lithuania – 281, in Estonia – 306, in Poland – 258. Besides, Latvia is the only country among the aforementioned ones where this indicator has grown in comparison with 2012 – 11 years ago, where there were 350 police officers per 100,000 residents in Latvia, in Lithuania – 383 and in Estonia – 336. Poland has seen a reduction only by one officer with the indicator remaining slightly higher than in Moldova, where this indicator was 244.[13], [14], [15], [16]

Within this context, there is no real reason to ascertain categorically that the decrease in the number of police officers per resident means a deeper crisis in law enforcement, taking into account the redistribution of resources within the last ten years with a number of functions, for example, speed monitoring, being diverted basically to technical devices such as radars. And also taking into account the sky-high migration rates.

[11] https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/riga-trukst-gandriz-40-valsts-policijas-darbinieku-cer-uz-jaunas-valdibas-velmi-palielinat-ieguldijumus-ieksejai-drosibai.a483267/

[12] https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/latvija-nodibina-ieksejas-drosibas-akademiju-macibas-varetu-sakt-nakamaja-rudeni.a479514/

[13] https://landgeistdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2022/11//europe-police-officers-1.png

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_number_of_police_officers

[15] https://polis.osce.org/country-profiles/moldova

[16] https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/policija-trukst-gandriz-25-bet-vugd-un-robezsardze-ap-13-iedzivotaji-pauz-satraukumu.a479494/

[42] The survey conducted by the market and public opinion research company in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – reflected the attitude of the residents of the Baltic States towards their national security. This survey was conducted on the Internet in the autumn of 2022.

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