POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


CONTINUITY AND CHANGE IN HUNGARIAN POLICING IN THE MIRROR OF PUBLIC SECURITY DETENTION

István Szikinger

1 TRADITIONS OF POLICING IN HUNGARY

Order maintenance had been either local government or military function before modern political statehood emerged in Hungary. First attempts to create professional bureaucratic police agencies were connected to efforts made to achieve democratic and independent political establishment in our country. After centuries of fight against various occupants the 1867 compromise between Hungarian political leadership and that of the Austrian Empire opened the way to developing modern national institutions.

The first state police was organized in the capital of the country based on the Act on the status of Budapest from the year 1872. More detailed regulation of the structure and powers was laid down by the 1881 (No.XXI.) Act on the Budapest State Police. The law reflected the general level of the contemporary continent by putting police activities into a relatively solid legal framework. Thus, democratization of the political system necessarily had an impact on policing the Hungarian capital. At the same time, this piece of legislation was rightly criticized by some liberal politicians for giving too much power to executive police organization without providing for adequate accountability toward local government (Eötvös - Szederkényi,1881).

The Budapest Police Act empowered law enforcement officers to arrest and detain offenders or suspects of criminal acts committed during street fighting or assemblies. Further reasons for such an arrest were: continuiation of commission of a minor offence following police cautioning, causing major scandal or disorder by a minor offence, resisting police power, unstaisfactory identification, or returning to the area from where the person had been excluded. Certain groups of people could be arrested and detained even in absence of the said conditions. Beggars, for example were exposed to arrest any time. Vagrants, unemployed persons or people known as dangerous for public security could be arrested under suspicious circumstances at any time but especially at night. Entertainers were liable to be arrested when committing any minor offence. In addition, police had the power to deprive of their liberty persons possessing objects to be usually used by committing criminal offences at night under suspicious circumstances. Arrestees had to be immediately, in case of night arrest latest next morning interrogated and decision to be made about pretrial detainment respectively release.

The Hungarian National Gendarmerie was established also in 1881 for rural law enforcement. This organization bore explicit militaristic features but it did not have public administrative powers. The Gendarmerie followed and enforced instructions issued by civilian organs of the state and of local authorities. Constitutionality of its activities depended on the situation of the directing authorities. Nevertheless, members of this public security force had to act even in the absence of civilian entities of public power and that led to laying down their rules of conduct in internal regulations. According to them, officers of the Gendarmerie had to take violators of any legal regulation before the competent authority.

Nationalization of the remaining city police organizations took place following World War I. By that time central government lost its progressive, democratic character to a great degree. After the war, the post-war revolutions, and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy a right-wing political course began under the leadership of Governor Miklós Horthy. Merger of city police forces into a national structure (including the capital police) was carried out on the basis of a Government Decree issued in 1919 (No. 5,047) representing definitely lower constitutional value compared to the 1881 Act on the Budapest State Police. Section 25 of the Decree stated that if necessary, police had the power to take to the police station persons who annoyed public tranquillity, disturbed public order, or endangered public security. Detailed regulation was referred to orders of the Minister of the Interior. It has to be mentioned that this type of arrest and public security detention lost importance to a great extent because more severe measures including internment gave to the executive almost unlimited possibility to deprive people of their liberty without any judicial or other control. In addition, the 1919 Decree also declared that the police had the general power to do anything not expressly forbidden by law in order to maintain public security. As personal freedom was not guaranteed by constitutional norms, these discretionary powers could be applyed to arrest and detainment, too.

Following World War II some elements of bourgeois democracy were restored but the Communist Party supported by the Soviet occupational Army gained more and more power until declaring the dictatorship of the proletariat in 1949. The Gendarmerie had been disbanded immediately after the war and declared responsible for assisting in deportation of Jews and other persons. Thus, a centralized national police force took over all the duties of general law enfocement. No comprehensive legal regulation framed the activities of the police because of the need of party leadership to use them as direct tools in implementing political decisions. A Law-Decree of 1955 provided for some rather vague provisions concerning police organization and activities. In 1974 another Law-Decree was issued containing norms on state and public security including those related to fire protection and border guard services. Thus, policing as special issue had to be regulated on a lower level according to the logic of hierarchical legislation. A Decree of the Government replaced the 1955 Law Decree only slightly modifying the substantial, organizational, and procedural stipulations of the latter. Particular conditions of public security detention were not circumscribed in either of the regulations referred to. The 1974 Governmental Decree (No. 39.), for example, provided in section 13., paragraph (4) that a police officer could arrest and detain persons displaying behaviour dangerous to society, violating the rules of parole, disturbing public order, behaving suspiciously, or committing any other infractions of law. The aim of this kind of arrest was to register data of the persons concerned, to request that they stopped behaving dangerously to society, or to apply other measures against them. Detailed regulations for public security detention should have been laid down in a Decree of the Minister of Interior. Judicial oversight of police activities in this field - as in general - remained excluded. A relative safeguard of personal liberty was defining the upper limit of detainment in 4 hours. That meant, within 4 hours a decision had to be passed on releasing the person concerned or taking him or her into custody under a specific legal provision. Such provisions were, as a rule, to be found in the Criminal Procedure Code but there were some other possibilities, as well. People could be kept in the police station up to 24 hours for purposes of identification, or protecting their own interests (in cases of extreme drunkenness, state of self-dangerousness ), further, if a person on parole hid or was about to hide from authorities.

The Ministerial Decree on public security detention had not been issued until 1985. By this time, however, governmental regulations widened the powers of the police. First of all, general time-limit of the detention could be prolonged by further 4 hours if it proved to be necessary. Thus, practically 8 hours were at the disposal of the police to decide upon subsequent steps in the case of the person in custody. Issuance of the Ministerial Decree No. 1. in 1985 represented doubtlessly a step forward in constitutional terms. Describing particular conditions of deprivation of liberty for public security purposes created the preconditions of real control over police activities. Although definitions of the Decree still contained vague terms, judicial oversight could have achieved some improvements in police accountability. However, courts remained excluded from exercising control over law enforcement measures.

In 1990, the then Minister of the Interior published the Service Regulations for the Police by a Ministerial Decree (No.1.). This was, no doubt, a progressive undertaking, because many detailed provisions covering police activities became accessible for the public for the first time. The Regulations actually incorporated all relevant norms of the legislation in force. At the same time, the Decree was clearly unconstitutional, because all substantial rules covering police functions had to be enacted by Parliament and not by the Minister. As the provisions of this Decree were in force at the time of our first survey on public security detention, worth having a closer look at the relevant passages.

Following the distinctions of the source Decree (of 1985) the regulations provided for separate legal grounds for criminal apprehension and for public security arrest. However, the immediate consequences were the same, as the Decree required that apprehended persons and those arrested for public security reasons equally had to be taken into public security detention. Thus, the first ground for public security detention was a previous capturing of people in connection with some criminal activities. In particular, persons had to be captured by police if such a warrant had been issued by a competent organ, if they escaped from the custody of an authority, if they had been caught in the act of committing a criminal offence or in attempting commission, if they had been hiding after committing an offence. Further causes for capturing were reasonable suspicion of having committed a felony, possessing objects under suspicious circumstances that could be used for committing offences, and finally, obstructing a police officer or resisting a measure applied by him. If any of the grounds for capturing existed, there was no space for discretion for the police officer, apprehension was obligatory.

In addition to the ones referred to, there were other mandatory cases of taking people into public security detention. Failing to identify oneself, rowdy behaviour, being wanted because disappearance, necessity to take blood sample for alcohol test, and committing minor offence of scandalous drunkenness triggered application of the measure, as well. Continuation of commission of a minor offence despite police warning, violation of probation rules, and begging in public places or by visiting houses were the three cases where police had the choice to arrest or not.

Before the collapse of communist dictatorship oppositional political forces raised the claim of "blowing up" the oppressive police apparatus. There was a broad consensus of democratizing police through rendering them accountable to elected bodies of local self- governments. The first democratically formed Government following the free elections of 1990 revised, however, the perspectives of the earlier concepts of the parties on which the coalition was based. Transformations of the law enforcement structure were postponed into the indefinite future. Innovation within police was in the beginning limited to emphasizing democratic environment of policing, further to making efforts toward a better acceptance and image of the service among population. The issue of democratization of police was dissolved in the question of reforming the general state structure. As the then Head of the Ministry unit responsible for policing, Mr. László Korinek put: "The police is only a part of this and if the state itself is democratic its police should be the same. It does not depend on what organizational principles determine the police being created" (Korinek,1992:10). As a consequence, police survived the change of the political system basically intact. After an all round protest action against Government policies by blocking major junctions and ports of entry of the country even cautious endeavours toward structural democratization of the police have been dropped. Since then efficiency and strength of the police are on the agenda instead of democratic reorganization of the still overcentralized and militaristic national police force in Hungary.

2 THE 1994 POLICE ACT (NO. XXXIV)

Police functioned on the basis of old regulations for several years after the first free elections (1990) while many elements of the legal environment changed during the same period.

A total revision of the Hungarian constitution took place in 1989. Beside enhancing guarantees for Human Rights Parliament adopted a new chapter of the basic law dealing with armed forces and police. The new constitutional provisions prescribed regulations on police organization and activities to be codified by an Act of Parliament requiring qualified majority of votes. Article 40/A, paragraph (2) provided that "The fundamental function of the police is to safeguard public security and defend internal order. The enactment of the law on the police and the detailed rules connected with national security require two thirds of the votes of the Members of Parliament present". Another important principle of the amendment was the stipulation as to resolute separation of police from the armed forces strictly limiting the latter's involvement in public order maintanance. A general prohibition of engagement in political activities for police officers was introduced only in 1993, though the text from 1989 had authorized the legislation to restrict political participation of law enfocement personnel.

The comprehensive constitutional reform and other acts of the transitional legislation made really significant steps toward establishing a solid system of constitutional values in the first years of democracy. This, however, does not apply to regulations covering police activities. The Government preferred having a mighty organization of law enforcement to putting its powers into a strict framework of constitutionality. Preservation of totalitarian norms for a long time served well the hard liner attitude of the administration. No wonder, the finally passed 1994 Act on Police (No. XXXIV) raises serious questions as to complying with elementary constitutional standards. The following discussion will point out some of the problems. In general, two classical legal principles have been undermined by this piece of legislation. One is that of division of powers, another the priority of Human Rights versus operational and power interests of the state. The special "plea bargaining" provision is one example for disregarding both division of powers and Human Rights. Section 67, paragraph 1 of the Act introduces a particular negotiation arrangement that raises serious doubts as to basic principles of presumption of innocence, right to appeal etc. The text is as follows: "With the approval of the prosecutor, in order to obtain information, the Police, promising the refusal or termination of the investigation, may enter into an agreement with the perpetrator of a criminal offence, if the interest of the enforcement of criminal law to be served by the agreement is higher than the interest attached to the criminal prosecution of the case by the state". Of course, without even starting an investigation it is highly questionable whether one can identify a "perpetrator of a criminal offence". In addition to Human Rights problems this provision challenges the right of the courts to decide upon guilt or innocence.

Introducing the parliamentary debates, the Minister of the Interior explained the theoretical background of the Bill. A principle was declared according to which "The degree of freedom guaranteed by a legal state belongs only to those having respect for the law". In other words all kinds of perpetrators are deprived of their "legal state degree of freedom", that is, of their basic Human Rights. This approach runs, of course, opposite to the general perception of basic rights and freedoms as attributes to the very human existence. Further problem is the definition of respective categories of people, with special regard to the presumption of innocence as a constitutional requirement. The quoted introductory speech solved the dilemma by stating that police proceeded only against those infringing the law, while citizens complying with it would be let in peace.

Section 3, paragraph (1) of the Police Act provides: "The Police shall be an armed policing agency performing duties in crime prevention, criminal law enforcement, state administration, and general law enforcement. The central organ of the Police with a nation- wide competence shall be the National Police Headquarters (NPHQ)". There is no clear distinction among the said categories of functions corresponding to different procedural systems. Crime prevention is regulated in the closest connection with prosecution, although criminal procedure does not cover any of the preventive measures. State administration duties (e.g. issuing personal identity cards, driving licenses etc.) can be extended beyond traditional scope of maintaning public security although the Act repeats the text of the basic law stipulating that police protect public security and internal order.

The Police Act provides some principles to ensure that misuse of power will be limited. Section 2, paragraph 1 declares e.g. that "The Police shall provide protection against acts which imminently endanger or harm the life or bodily integrity of persons or the security of property and shall provide information and help to persons in need of such assistance. The Police shall respect and protect human dignity and they shall guard Human Rights". Other norms of the Act also intend to guarantee important constitutional values. There is strict prohibition of any kind of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Proportionality of measures and coercive means applied is one of the basic guidelines of police activities including the principle of minimum force.

The realization of the above mentioned guarantees is nevertheless difficult under the present obscure situation as to the procedural arrangement of law enforcement actions. Further, institutional control over police has been weakened for sake of strong power against the "criminal underworld". It is to be noted, too, that beside the said stipulations safeguarding Human Rights there are highly questionable provisions within the Police Act. Officers have, for example, to enforce unlawful instructions of their service superiors save the behaviour would constitute a crime. However, many orders can infringe upon elementary rules without being a formal criminal act. In addition, obligation to comply with doubtful instructions extends to those encountered by members of the force. Section 19, paragraph 1 of the Police Act requires: "Everyone shall submit to a Police measure obeying the instructions of the Police Officer if the measure is aimed at the implementation of provisions set forth in statutes, unless otherwise provided by an Act or an international treaty. In the course of Police action, its lawfulness shall not be challenged unless it may be seen as manifest". In other words this is to say that an intervention does not have to be legal in all the aspects of it, suffice to point out the aim at the implementation of statutorial provisions.

Secret methods of collecting information are also regulated by the Act, ensuring wide discretion for police in prevention and detection of crime. They may use informants or secret agents and prepare cover documents respectively run a cover enterprise. Surveillance and entrapment not causing injury or damage to health can be applied as well. All these actions can be carried out without warrant. One of the Members of Parliament pointed out during the debate of the Bill that exercise of the said powers is of higher value than avoidance of possible violations of law by police. Further means of police intelligence are bound to warrant issued by courts. With such a warrant police may secretly search a private residence and record the observations by technical devices, observe and record events taking place in a private residence, and intercept any communication in order to learn the content respectively to find evidence.

Data protection got detailed regulation by this piece of legislation, though providing police with far-reaching powers to exclude publicity and exercise of the rights of persons involved. Banks, tax authorities and telecom services have to satisfy the information needs of law enforcement in the interests of detecting crimes punishable at least with two years of deprivation of freedom or more. Requests for such information should be given with the previous consent of a prosecutor.

Accountability of the police is another cause for concern, because the Act does not institutionalize any forum for carrying out real supervision over the above outlined wide set of police powers. Apart from criminal, administrative proceedings, decisions and measures of the police - among others the ones mentioned, save secret actions which must remain confidential independent of possible ceasing of interests in that - will be dealt with by the organization itself. Complaints shall be submitted within 8 days from the measure to be challenged with the police organ of first instance and in case of disagreement of the police chief the superior police organ will meet the final decision. This means that omission cannot be challenged and in some cases the superior organ will decide upon its own policy's conformity with the law provided that the act objected has been done as implementation of the instruction of the superior organ.

The Police Act did not introduce structural changes into the organization of the police. By the time of adopting it, practically no significant interest group urged radical reorganization. The former enthusiasm of many local authorities faded because they had been given new responsibilities without appropriate financial background, therefore they learned that taking over policing tasks under such circumstances could have caused more problems to them than possible success. Police themselves argued for keeping the centralized system. This was quite natural as expression of "police needs" was formulated on the top level of management being mostly interested in retaining power and social status. Politicians also recognized the advantages of the central police management. The public became persuaded that growing menace of "internationally organized crime" could only be effectively fought by an army-like organization.

The National Headquarters is the focal point of the centralized force with all the powers to direct and control the whole network. A National Commissioner, appointed by the Prime Minister is the chief of all police officers. His two deputies, called Directors General, have the responsibility for functioning of the two basic fields of police work, namely criminal investigation, and public security (uniformed) policing. Direction is exercised as a rule - but not exclusively - through county headquarters, though some special units, like Airport Police or Central Riot Police report directly to the National Headquarters. There are 19 county police forces in Hungary and the capital force having the same status as county police. Local police stations, usually serving several municipalities represent the lowest level of the pyramid.

3 PUBLIC SECURITY DETENTION IN CURRENT LEGISLATION

Provisions related to public security detention in the 1994 Police Act reflect the described approach of the drafters and legislature. Human Rights guarantees have been rather weakened for sake of perceived police efficiency. Most of the grounds for this short term deprivation of liberty have been taken over from the previous legislation without any attempt to adapt them into the framework of the changed constitutional and international legal environment. On the contrary, some new provisions clearly violate universally accepted standards of basic rights.

Worth mentioning that the provisions on the possible duration of detainment were substantially closer to the constitutional requirements in the previous legislation than in current law. The 1990 Decree provided that police had to decide promptly, latest in 4 hours, in exceptionally necessary cases within 8 hours on release or arrest on a special legal ground. Section 33, paragraph (3) of the 1994 Police Act replaced the regulation with the following: "The Police shall restrict personal freedom by public security detention only for the necessary period of time but not exceeding 8 hours. If the aim of the measure cannot be achieved, this time period may be prolonged once by 4 hours by the head of the Police organ . The time period shall be calculated from the beginning of application of the police measure". An apparent change is extending the possible duration of keeping persons in custody from a maximum of 8 to 12 hours. There is no referral in the reasons attached to the Bill to the cause that made it necessary increasing the time limit of this measure. I performed the duties of Head of Department for Police of the Ministry of Interior when the Minister of the day declared his intention to raise the upper limit of the duration of public security detention. Having learned the plans of the Minister I asked the Control Department to examine whether this was really needed for improving police efficiency. Conclusions of the report made it clear that there was no real problem with the time at the disposal of law enforcement apart from cases when the persons concerned had to be transported to remote places. Of course, this difficulty could have been solved without general extension ot the time for making a decision with a direct impact on personal liberty. Furthermore, professional arguments also supported shortening rather than prolonging the maximum duration of public security detention. Computer based data banks have been developed since introduction of 4 respectively 8 hours upper limit. Thus police, actually, need less time to collect information for the decision. A speedy process is also desirable because most of the cases of public security detention are or can be related to detection of criminal offences. The earlier Police get either corroborative or excluding pieces of evidence, the better the chances of clearing a case. In sum, extension of the possible duration of public security detention has been made not only without acceptable reasoning but in fact in contradiction to real needs of constitutionality and professional efficiency. Only empty rhetorics on a "strong state with a strong police" supported the change of the provision examined. This conclusion is confirmed by the wording of the legal passage, too. As we saw, previous legislation required prompt decisionmaking and prolongation was possible only under exceptionally necessary circumstances. All these terrms used suggested certain pressure on police organs to deal with the matter as quickly as possible because some external factors urging decisionmaking. Now the text emphasizes police needs that actually determine the duration of the measure without any referral to the importance of Human Rights of the detainee. Practically, the new legislation underpins an interpretation that, as opposed to the former provisions, police now do not have to give priority to cases where the persons concerned are detained. Suffice to say that they needed the time to keep him or her in. Consequently, preference of police operative requirements to Human Rights guarantees can be clearly revealed in the new Police Act, whereby previous "totalitarian" regulation proved to be more favourable for constitutional rights. At the same time, no reasonable argument has been expressed to prove probability of increased efficiency to be achieved by the changed provisions.

Another important guarantee has been similarly weakened by the 1994 Police Act. The Decree of 1990 (paragraph 158) required that the arresting police officer informed the person concerned about the reasons and place of detainment. The new Police Act makes informing the arrestee dependent on his/her request. This is in clear contradiction with paragraph 2. of article 5 of the European Human Rights Convention which provides: "Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him".

As to the possible causes of public security detention, the 1994 Police Act repeats the most important provisions of the Decree of 1990 while introducing, at the same time, some changes into the rules covering conditions of the measure. Apprehension - as before - has to be followed by public security detention. There is no space for discretion concerning implementation the relevant provisions, they have to be applied if the conditions be present.

According to section 33, paragraph (1) the following persons have to be apprehended:

  1. who is caught in the act of committing a criminal offence by intention;
  2. against whom a warrant of arrest is issued under a separate Act or under an international treaty, further whose apprehension is ordered in a quest;
  3. whose arrest or pretrial detention is ordered respectively whose compulsory psychiatric treatment or obsrevation of mental state is ordered;
  4. who escaped from, or failed to return to the institute of deprivation of liberty, further, who evaded compulsory treatment, observation or correction;
  5. whose public security detention is ordered under a separate Act.

In addition to these mandatory cases, the Police Act describes other circumstances where a police officer may but is not obliged to arrest and detain people "in the interests of public security". These provisions, as determined by section 33, paragraph (2) of the Act apply to anyone

  1. who is unable or unwilling to certify identity in a trustworthy way upon request of a police officer;
  2. who may be suspected of committing a criminal offence;
  3. of whom, in order to gain evidence of a criminal offence or infraction, it is necessary to take urine or for alcohol test blood sample respectively other sample in a way not qualifying as a surgical operation;
  4. who evades parental supervision, gurdianship or institute education;
  5. who violates rules of probation if police have competencies according to a separate Act;
  6. who carries on committing an infraction despite a call to stop it, or against whom proceedings can be promptly effected, further of whom objective evidence has to be taken or an object has to be seized in order to ensure its confiscation.
  7. who is quested as missing.

Apparent differences compared to previous legislation are misleading because practically all powers given by the 1990 Decree have been taken over into the new regulations. According to the wording, there is no more possible to apprehend committing a criminal offence by negligence. However, based on subparagraph b. of paragraph (2) anybody who is suspected of a criminal offence can be arrested and detained "in the interests of public security". Thus, causes given by the former legislation survived under more general headings. The same applies to further repealed provisions. Begging, for example, constitutes an infraction, therefore a beggar can be taken into public security detention without difficulties by referring to the subparagraph f. of paragraph (2). Indeed, the new Act widened the scope of possible deprivation of liberty. Especially questionable is the provision concerning detention of those who may be suspected of committing a criminal offence. Here, again, an obvious contradiction with the European Human Rights Convention can be realized. This international document - immediately binding Hungarian legal subjects - does not permit arrest on "pure" but only upon reasonable suspicion. Reasonableness is a substantial requirement even if problems of interpretation of the term may emerge (See Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Fox, Camppbell and Hartley v. United Kingdom, 30 August, 1990, No. 182, 13 E.H.R.R. 157.). Another deviation from the strictly formulated exhaustive listing of possible causes for arrest in the Convention is the provision enabling police to take missing persons, if found, into custody. Disappearance in itself does not violate any law, therefore may not lead to sanctioning by deprivation of liberty. Such category, of course, does not take place among the cases laid down in article 5 of the Convention.

In addition to the 8 (+4) hours' general public security detention there are special regulations providing for keeping persons in custody for a longer time without any intention to take them before a judge. The Police Act itself empowers police to deprive people of their liberty up to 24 hours if it be necessary for checking personal identity or in the interest of the persons concerned (extreme drunkenness, danger for himself or for others). The maximal duration will be 72 hours if the person on parole or on conditional release from a reformatory institute, to whom probation rules apply, hides or there is high probability of his/her hiding.

4 RESEARCH ON PUBLIC SECURITY DETENTION

The Hungarian Police Research Institute decided in 1994 to start a survey in order to investigate how far the Police Act passed by Parliament in the same year influenced actual police work. A project has been set up aiming at comparison of law enforcement before and after entering into force of the new legislation. Public security detention seemed to be an appropriate subject because, as it was shown, both continuity and change could be observed in the development of this legal institution. The first survey was done under the old legislation in 1994 while the second one in 1996 when the new Act has been fully implemented. Regrettably, at the time of writing the present contribution results from the latter data collection have not been evaluated, thus only a preliminary account can be given here based on the 1994 research based on Pál Búzás' summary report (Búzás, 1996).

Questionnaires have been elaborated to be filled in by interviewers based on structured conversation with patrol officers. Because of limited possibilities, especially of the surprisingly low number of officers doing the job to be examined, mostly practical reasons determined choosing the sample. In addition, lack of background data also made it difficult to aim at getting a comprehensively representative group of interviewees. However, the survey embraced big city departments and police forces of smaller municipalities, as well. 220 questionnaires have been answered by patrol officers. Majority of the respondents were male, under 30 with 3 years or less in service. In addition 1400 reports on public security detention have been examined and evaluated. Talks with officers receiving and questioning arrestees at the police stations, and with detainees complemented the sources of the research.

Essential results can be expected, in accordance with the main goal of the survey, when comparable data will be available from the time of implementation of the 1994 Police Act. Nevertheless, some tentative remarks can be formulated even at this stage serving as issues to be further examined in the course of setting up hypotheses and verifying correctness of conclusions reached by researchers of similar issues. Let us see here some interesting findings of the first phase of the research.

One of the preliminary conclusions is that police officers use public security detention not exclusively to achieve goals according to regulations covering activities in this field. 80% of the respondents stated that police needed to arrest people to maintain respectively to increase social authority of law enforcement. For several reasons, though, only two thirds of them were convinced that depriving persons of their liberty actually contributed to enhanced respect toward police.

Expectations of the community sometimes really move police officers toward acting in a legally questionable way. A typical example is taking prostitutes off the streets and keeping them in custody for several hours. Prostitution in itself does not constitute a criminal offence although sexual intercourse in exchange for money is an administrative infraction. Proving it, however, is extremely difficult and even in case of having evidence fines can be easily paid by the girls and their pimps. Thus, police tends to arrest and detain prositutes based on false grounds satisfying neighborhood needs requiring action against the nuisance caused by the phenomenon. I myself saw reports of taking in the same prostitute to the same police station six times within one month for personal identity check. On four occasions it was the same police officer who arrested her. Each time she was kept in for four hours (that time the maximum without prolongation) than released. Similar pattern of police behaviour has been observed by Agnes Kover and her team during another project focusing on circumstances of detention at police stations (Kover,1996). Such practice together with more other examples of police perception and activities confirms the perspective of police sociologists according to which officers generally prefer order maintenance to law enforcement. As Jerome Skolnick puts: "The demand for police "efficiency" creates a type of "professional" police practice in which the concern for legality is minimal. Police are naturally committed to orderly behavior by those arrested, or even brought into custody, regardless of the legality of the confinement". (Skolnick, 1966:110).

The "professional" attitude disregarding constitutional and other legal values also leads to a discriminative outcome of activities. Majority of those asked during the first phase thought that gypsies were suspicious. As police have discretion in deciding whom to stop and check this inevitably results in focusing attention and activities on this minority group. As a consequence, gypsies are overrepresented among detainees (no official statistics are available besause belonging to a minority group is a sensitive data not to be processed without specific legal authorization). At the same time, partly by reason of limited resources non-gypsy population is controlled less intensively, thus deviance of the minority group seems to be extremely serious compared to the behavior of majority. This conclusion, based on the reflection of police activities rather than on studying people's behaviour as it is, reinforces needs to concentrate on the "problematic" group whereby perceived deviance will further grow. Racial or other discrimination against minorities is, of course, not a unique feature of the Hungarian police (see among others, Grönfors,1981; Smith - Gray, 1985:389). However, specific causes and possible remedies have to be explored by studying the given circumstances. Therefore it has been decided that during the second phase of the research more attention would be paid to problems of police - gypsy relations.

As it was referred to, another project focused on particular conditions of deprivation of liberty in police cells. Agnes Kover and her team reported that some facilities did not even satisfy the elementary requirements for human stay. The police custody of the town Ajka, for example, is situated below the ground floor without any heating and either natural or artificial light. This might be an extreme case but circumstances for detention in general admittedly do not correspond to basic international and domestic provisions (Kover,1996).


Table of Contents | The Background of the Human Rights Protection in Lithuania

The HTML conversion of this chapter was supported by the
National Institute of Justice/
National Criminal Justice Reference Service
Washington, D.C.