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


Milan Pagon

The paper describes the four pillars of effective policing in Central and Eastern Europe: cooperation,training, education, and research. It shows how each of them is of vital importance and how they complement each other. It also points out that countries in Central and Eastern Europe have to be willing to change their philosophy and practice of policing , while at the same time they should not uncritically adopt the Western police practice and experience. Rather, they should establish themselves as equal partners in shaping the future of European and international policing.


The modern policing is a very complex activity that is not carried out in isolation. Various forces and actors are shaping it, while at the same time the policing itself is shaping the societies and communities in which it is taking place. There is a clear trend around the world for policing to transform from "policing for the state" to "policing for the community." Policing for the community, however, demands different philosophy, different approach to policing, and even a change in structure (cf. Williams & Wagoner, 1992). One "master" (i.e., the state or a political party) is replaced by various masters (i.e., different constituents) and police are forced to cooperate with many other agencies within the community, including the ever increasing number of private security agencies and other forms of "private policing." At the same time, a new dimension is being added to policing, namely the international dimension. As crime is getting increasingly internationalized, the police are also forced to cooperate with other police organizations in the neighboring countries and around the world. All these changes represent new challenges for the police. To meet all these challenges and demands effectively, the police need a lot of information and skills, a broad knowledge-base, a lot of data and analyses regarding the current trends and issues, in addition to exchanging experience and working closely with other agencies at home and in other countries. Therefore, it can be said that the modern policing rests on four pillars, all of which need to be firm and equally strong if the policing is to be effective in fulfilling its mission. These four pillars are: cooperation, training, education, and research. The purpose of this paper is to highlight some of the problems and issues regarding these four pillars of policing in Central and Eastern Europe.


As the Berlin wall came down in 1990, a lot of people all around Europe were relieved. Many said: "No more walls in Europe!" Today, six years later, we see a danger of new walls being elevated in Europe, creating an "enclave" in the form of European Union and the Schengen states. In describing the characteristics of enclaves, Williams and Wagoner (1992) say: "Residents identify with the area and non-residents are seen as intruders and potential criminals. Emergent police responses to the enclave movement are concerned with maintaining the enclave community at the expense of the larger community." (p. 371). There is, however, one serious problem with walls like this in the middle of Europe: they cannot stop crime nor criminals from crossing them. Especially now, in the era of the `Information Super-Highway,' with new forms of crime and terrorism, such as CyberTerrorism, where a criminal "can perform his CyberTerrorist acts from his living room, undetected, from 8,000 kilometers away" (Collin, 1996: 2), it is very naive and unrealistic to assume that one can protect himself by simply `locking the gate of his courtyard.' Facing threats of terrorism, organized and violent crime, money laundering, drug trafficking, and other forms of cross-border crime, the EU countries turned to the non-EU countries for cooperation. They want police in the non-EU countries to cooperate with them, and they are even willing to offer their advice, funds, technology, etc., to improve effectiveness of police in the non-EU countries. The only problem with such help occurs when it is intended as a one-way street only, i.e., to prevent crime in those countries from spilling over the wall into the EU.

This picture, albeit oversimplified, brings our attention to a potential danger inherent in such an approach to cooperation. The danger is in implying that: (a) the safety of the EU countries is a priority in this cooperation, and (b) the EU countries have all the right answers in crime fighting and policing. Adopting such an assumption would not only be very arrogant, it would lead to "colonization" of police in the non-EU countries.

This paper argues that countries in Central and Eastern Europe have to cooperate, not only among themselves, but with the EU countries as well. However, it does not take more than a short review of a current situation in the European Community to realize that policing within the EU is plagued with many problems, inconsistencies, different approaches, obstacles, postponed solutions, and opposing opinions on various issues (see Hebenton & Thomas, 1995, for an in-depth analysis of policing within the EU). The head of Europol, Jurgen Storbeck, believes that the diverse cultures, legal systems, and policing approaches of the fifteen members of the EU are major stumbling block to cooperation (Anon., 1996a). Therefore, the Central and Eastern European countries have no reason for entering this cooperation in any other way than as equal partners. The cooperation does not only mean working cases together, it also means cooperation in training, education, and research, as discussed later in this paper. This a tough request within a frame of European policing. The words of Brian Hilliard_although he was talking about a different issue_can be applied to this situation: "Can various agencies participating in the new partnership overcome years of distrust, and the natural dislike or the beliefs of those who are not part of one's own organization?" (cited in Moran, 1996).

Another aspect of cooperation that still has not been fully addressed in Central and Eastern Europe is cooperation between police and other agencies in their own countries and communities. Paramilitary oriented police forces in many countries in this region might resist to cooperate with agencies such as social work agencies, private security agencies, etc. A poll in the United States, commissioned by the Police Foundation, showed that sixty percent of more than 300 interviewed police chiefs believed that law enforcement efforts to reduce the drug problem had been unsuccessful. More than 90 percent reported that their department participated in drug education programs in the schools, and more than 80 percent were engaged in community policing programs. They realized that law enforcement alone cannot solve the country's drug problems (Anon., 1996b). To solve problems like this, police have to cooperate with communities, schools, social workers, health agencies, etc., which undoubtedly applies to the Central and Eastern European policing as well. Another experience from the United States illustrates that "in these days of governmental and corporate downsizing, the relationship between law enforcement and security is becoming increasingly important" (Brooke, 1996). The author reports that in the United States, private security is now the primary protective resource, out-spending public law enforcement by 73 percent and employing three times the workforce. The author presents several cases to demonstrate that privatization models can be very effective, "especially when coupled with a cooperative effort between private security and the police" (p. 1). This trend of an increasing number of private security agencies has already emerged in Central and Eastern Europe, so the police in these countries will soon have to deal with these issues (see Johnston, 1996, for more detailed treatment of the impact of the private policing).


Increased cooperation, new forms of crime, changes in the society, and the changed role of police, created new tasks that police officers need to perform, which in turn require many new skills. In addition to the more traditional police skills (related to patrolling, traffic enforcement, public order maintenance, crime investigation, etc.), training has to include tasks, skills, and issues related to:

a) new approaches to policing (community policing, problem-oriented policing, team-policing),

b) information technology (using computers, Internet, electronic mail and other sophisticated communication systems, scanners, etc.),

c) international cooperation (language skills, communication patterns, cultural differences and related sensitivity),

d) inter-agency cooperation (procedures for cooperation, different modes of operation, questions of jurisdictions),

e) communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and negotiation,

f) team-building and working as a team member,

g) use of discretion,

h) stress management,

i) police ethics, etc.

A new challenge for the police in all countries in transition is also to provide those skills in a cost-effective way. Only the core tasks and skills have to be taught in the basic police training courses, while all others need to be taught later in specialized training, based on a particular assignment of an individual officer. A particular emphasis needs to be placed on management training as well.

In discussing training issues in policing in Central and Eastern Europe, two issues have to be emphasized.

First, there is a strong need to determine a common core of tasks, skills, and issues that need to be addressed by basic, specialized, and management police training. Without such a common denominator, it is hard to remove obstacles to successful police cooperation in this part of the world and broader. Such common core of tasks and skills has to be a product of cooperation among various institutions in Europe, while at the same time experience from other parts of the world needs to be considered.

Second, training has to be supported by solid human resource practices. Job analysis and evaluation, reliability and validity of selection instruments and procedures, assessment centers, performance appraisal and feedback, etc., are topics that are not too often mentioned in discussions among police in this part of the world.

Two initiatives deserve to be mentioned here. The first one is MEPA (in translation: Central European Police Academy), and the other one ILEA (International Law Enforcement Academy). The two institutions_that have just recently started to cooperate_are both helping countries in Central and Eastern Europe in their training efforts. I believe that they should even expand their mission and_together with institutions such as Polizei-Fhrungsakademie in Mnster and Police Staff College in Bramshill_cooperate with these countries in determining the above mentioned core of tasks and skills for police training.


The ever increasing complexity of policing demands higher educational levels of both police officers and police managers. Education is not only an agent of change, some authors (e.g., Fry & Berkes, 1983) believe that education is a route to police professionalization. Police education has a special place in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in some of the Western European countries. Unlike in the United States and the United Kingdom, where the police only operates training institutions, almost all police organizations in the Central and Eastern European countries operate police educational institutions that offer academic degrees. Therefore, any discussion about police in Central and Eastern Europe, whether it is about cooperation, changing the police, expanding their role, improving their effectiveness, or their accountability, cannot ignore the role that police educational institutions are playing within this context.

Such an arrangement has its proponents and its critics. The proponents usually claim that own educational institutions not only enable much larger number of police officers to obtain academic degrees, but also reflect more closely the real needs of their respective police organizations. The opponents usually share a belief, common in the United States, that education has the greatest impact on changing police if it is obtained outside police organizations. In addition, critics usually question the academic level of those institutions, where all professors and students are employees of the police, and where the police can determine the content of the program. Both positions have some merit. I believe, however, that the key question is not whether an educational institution is a part of police organization or not. The question is whether such an institution is successful in:

a) achieving autonomy regarding the academic matters, and

b) enforcing academic standards and criteria in imparting and testing knowledge.

I believe that Slovenia has a model to offer in this regard. The College of Police and Security Studies in Ljubljana is a part of the Ministry of the Interior. The majority of professors and lecturers worked as police officers before they started their academic career. They obtained their bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees at various Faculties at the Slovenian universities and even in the United States. Although a part of the Ministry of the Interior, the College has an unchallenged autonomy with regard to academic matters (curricula, admissions, evaluation of professors and students, examinations, personnel selection, etc.). To assure academic standards, the College of Police and Security Studies is an Affiliated Member of the University of Ljubljana. All professors, senior lecturers, and lecturers are evaluated by the University Senate's Committee which has to issue consent for the awarding of an academic rank. To assure an appropriate mixture of students and an exchange of various ideas, the College has approximately one third of students that are not affiliated with the police at all. Furthermore, all students, regardless whether they are employees of the police or not, have to apply for admission through the University Admissions Office, and the same criteria apply to all of them.

Similarly to what I said for police training, I believe that in the area of police education in Central and Eastern Europe there is a strong need to establish some common core of topics in police education and to make our educational programs internationally comparable. In the light of a changing role of police, I personally believe that police educational programs in Central and Eastern Europe should reorient themselves_from emphasizing law studies_more toward criminal justice and police administration type of studies. There are several institutions in Western Europe and in the United States that could be partners to the Central and Eastern European police educational institutions in these efforts, such as the Center for the Study of Public Order at the University of Leicester, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY, and the Institute of Police and Criminological Studies at the University of Portsmouth, to name just a few.


The last pillar of policing is research. When it comes to various issues of policing, crime prevention, crime control, and similar topics, it would be easy to list pages and pages of questions that should be addressed empirically. As Hebenton and Thomas (1995) call for more research on policing European Union, I join them with a call for more research on policing in Central and Eastern Europe.

All of the previously mentioned activities (cooperation, training, and education) need research to support them. Cooperation is posing several questions that have to be addressed by researchers, such as: (a) How similar or different we really are? (b) Which police practices and solutions can be transferred from one country to another or from one culture to another? (c) What are the consequences of implementing various policies, strategies, and tactics in particular contexts? (d) What are the real crime trends? When it comes to training, research has to support the identification of core tasks and skills; assess the impact of various training approaches on trainees; assess the impact of training on changes in police performance; establish predictive validity of various selection tests and procedures; etc. With regard to education, research is the vehicle of expanding the knowledge base of police education. Research findings that find their way into practice through education and training are probably one of the most powerful agents of change in policing.

Discussing critical issues in police research, Brown (1996) describes four types of research investigators, classified along two dimensions (working inside or outside police forces, and having or not having police experience) as inside insiders, outside insiders, inside outsiders, and outside outsiders. She argues: "Rather than perceive the differing perspectives as contentious there are perhaps useful creative tensions between researcher types that can push the boundaries of inquiry further than any one constituency left to its own devices. Understanding can only be enhanced if there is a greater degree of crossover between the theoretical and applied domains and a suspension of the hostility between them" (p. 190). When it comes to research in policing in Central and Eastern Europe, I would add another dimension to Brown's classification, i.e., insider/outsider in terms of being or not being a Central/Eastern- European. Of course, if we in the Central and Eastern European countries want to be equal partners with other parts of the world, then we should not only disseminate other people's knowledge, but actively participate in creating it.

Although I agree with Brown's conclusions, that all types of research have their merit, I would call for more joint research projects among outsiders and insiders (along the Central and Eastern European dimension), to establish most needed cooperation in this area, too.


In policing, we all have a lot of questions, and nobody has all the answers_not the Americans, not the British, not the Germans, nor anybody else. In any country or culture, successful policing rests on four pillars: cooperation, training, education, and research. Not only in policing itself, but also in training, education, and research, the only real answer is cooperation_pooling resources, knowledge, ideas, and experience_to arrive to mutually beneficial solutions. Nobody has an exclusive right to train, educate, and research others. We can all learn from each other, assuming that we are all willing to admit that in certain matters others might have more answers, resources, knowledge, or ideas, and assuming that we are all willing to change when change appears reasonable.

In this paper, I tried to show that cooperation, training, education, and research have the power to reshape the police and policing in Central and Eastern Europe. I also tried to show that Central and Eastern European police officers, trainers, educators, and researchers, should play an active role as equal partners in this process.

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