Reorganization unleashes open war inside police force

Milan Chovanec, Tomáš Tuhý, photo: CTK

The planned merger of two elite police units has caused a rift in the ruling coalition and triggered an open war in the ranks of the police force. The outgoing head of the squad for fighting organized crime Robert Šlachta, who resigned in protest of the planned changes, has requested a hearing before Parliament’s Security Committee saying he has evidence of links between the police and the criminal underworld.

Milan Chovanec, Tomáš Tuhý, photo: CTK
The battle over the planned reorganization of the police force which brought the government to the brink of collapse last week is now being fought within the force itself. On Monday Jiří Komárek, head of the police unit for fighting organized crime in Ostrava, accused Police President Tomáš Tuhý, of having leaked information concerning investigations into a large-scale corruption case. Similarly as Mr. Šlachta, Mr. Komárek said he wanted to take his evidence before Parliament’s Security Committee, since he did not trust the police’s internal investigations unit GIBS. The Speaker of the lower house of Parliament, Jan Hamáček, expressed shock over the developments.

“It is simply not possible for a high ranking police chief to say that he does not trust the police’s internal investigations unit. That is a sign of anarchy.”

The open hostilities in the force were fuelled by the fact that the elite squad for fighting organized crime was not informed about the plan to merge the financial crime and organized crime units under a single administration. Many in the organized crime squad believe that the reform of the police was not motivated by the need to increase efficiency, but was intended to get rid of the head of the unit Robert Šlachta and bring his team of investigators under greater control. Mr. Šlachta who resigned over the proposed reform, said on Monday he was ready to provide Parliament’s Security Committee with evidence of links between the police and the criminal underworld, giving weight to these arguments.

Robert Šlachta, photo: Adam Kebrt
The offensive brought counter-fire from Interior Minister Milan Chovanec who slammed the Ostrava chief for making serious accusations via the media, saying that any suspicions of this kind should have been reported to the police’s internal affairs unit and that if such a case was to be reported then Mr. Komárek himself was leaking information. Police President Tuhý promptly filed a criminal complaint against Komárek.

The row over the controversial police reform and the accusations surrounding it will now move from government to Parliament ground. Parliament’s Security Committee will meet on Thursday to hear statements by Robert Šlachta, Jiří Komárek and Olomouc’s high state prosecutor Ivo Ištvan.

Some of its members have indicated they are far from happy to be placed in the position of arbiter in a murky police row, especially in view of the fact that, ultimately, the committee has no powers to deal with the matter. One thing is clear: this case is likely to drag on for weeks, damaging the reputation of the force and impacting campaigning to the autumn regional and Senate elections.