Police to get "manual" of extremist symbols

In the course of the last decade the Czech police force has increasingly been confronted with various forms of extremism and street violence. And more often than not it has been criticized for either failing to take action or over-reacting. The Interior Ministry says it is training officers to deal with such situations and has now issued a manual to help them recognize various extremist symbols.

The manual - 15,000 copies of which have been printed - is something like a pocket dictionary of extremist signs and symbols. Interior Ministry spokesman Petr Vorlicek says it should help officers to make better on-the-spot decisions when dealing with demonstrators or confiscating extremist paraphernalia.

"The manual is pocket size and should help officers in the field to determine what they are dealing with - what the given symbols relate to and whether they can be viewed as promoting an extremist ideology."

The eighty-page manual covers all forms of extremism - there are neo-Nazi symbols, communist symbols, anarchist symbols and even symbols relating to environmental and Islamic extremism. There's a neo-Nazi calendar of significant names, dates and places - which often appear on tattoos and clothes and Czech related "anniversaries" such as the jailing of a young neo-Nazi for murder. These manuals are now being sent to police stations around the country. But will they help to improve the performance of the police? Commentator Jan Urban thinks any additional training is a step in the right direction.

"Definitely we do not have enough experience in dealing with political extremism. One must remember that the absolute majority of top posts in the police force are still held by older police officers trained in the communist years who simply do not have the flexibility, do not have the knowledge, do not have the international know-how and their hesitance and uncertainty is reflected in not giving clear enough orders to their staff and members of police."

Well some would also suggest that many young men who join the police are inclined to sympathize with some of these extremist groupings. What would you say to that?

"I definitely would agree. We can see the same thing happening all over Europe but more experienced police forces in more experienced West European countries have a long tradition in training and working against this -excuse the expression - "natural tendency" based on the fact that these young guys simply want to help us to keep law and order in the streets."