New bill envisages biggest changes to Czech police force in 50 years

Police President Oldřich Martinů, photo: CTK

The Czech police is set for the most profound reform the force has seen in five decades. On Monday, the government passed a new police bill which abolishes some of its current responsibilities; at the same time, the police force will have more authority to combat the mafia, extremism and other serious crime.

Police President Oldřich Martinů,  photo: CTK
The government passed a new police bill on Monday that will do away with some obsolete duties the police has been responsible for – instead of delivering court orders and taking drunkards to sobering stations, the Czech police will have more time to focus on fighting crime. Police President Oldřich Martinů explains what the reform is aimed at.

“The main goal of the police reform is a new, modern police corps which will be perceived by people as an organization that protects and helps the public. We want to get rid of some pointless administrative and bureaucratic tasks; the police will also get new powers, especially those to fight extremism, prostitution and illegal employment. At the same time, we are working on a new organizational structure and new economic functioning of the whole police organisation.”

Filip Pospíšil
To achieve all this, the bill introduces a number of new measures the police can use: officers will be able to enter private homes whenever people’s rights and liberties are at risk. The police will also be able to turn off nation-wide mobile phone networks in the event of imminent terrorist attacks; and the new law also establishes a duty for the media to publish police statements without editing them. Filip Pospíšil, an expert the Czech human rights watchdog Iuridicum Remedium, says that the new act on police might be going a little too far.

“We can see these attempts to extend the powers of security forces and of police all around the world. But the thing is that often – and this is the case of the new Czech law on police – these attempts to get more powers to fight organized crime and terrorism are not balanced with any improvement of control mechanism over the new powers of the police, and with respect to the privacy and rights of citizens.”

The police reform will also see a change in the police inspectorate, a body that investigates violations of the law committed by police officers themselves. Under the current legislation, the inspectorate is control solely by the Interior Ministry. Filip Pospíšil of Iuridicum Remedium again.

“In recent years, these have been a lot of debates about the necessity of the reform of the police inspectorate because in the past, we had many cases of abuse of police authority, including police violence, that were not investigated. Originally, the Interior Ministry announced that the new law would bring some significant changes in that respect; but that hasn’t happened.”

Police President Oldřich Martinů says that the Interior Ministry is working on a new act on a general inspectorate which will be more independent, and also control customs, the prison services and other bodies.

“The Inspectorate will have authority not only over the police force but over all members of the security forces. The law on the General Inspectorate will put much stronger emphasis on the control of all the security forces.”