The Czech Republic’s top policeman, Police President Petr Lessy, has proposed that a reinforced nationwide anti-corruption police unit be created in order to bolster the battle against graft.
Lessy suggests that the current nationwide anti-corruption and financial crime unit (ÚOKFK) should form the core of the boosted force with extra personnel drafted in from specialized officers working in the regions. He hinted on Wednesday that the change might offer corruption fighters better access to the latest technology.
“Existing technical equipment at the current time is a bit of a limit on us,” the Police President commented, according to Thursday’s edition of the news server iDnes.cz.
Inspiration for Lessy’s initiative comes, apparently, from neighboring Austria, where a specialized anti-corruption office, the Federal Bureau of Anti-Corruption — separated from the main police force and answerable to the Ministry of Interior — has been up and running in its current form since the start of 2010.
That Austrian office is responsible for handling criminal police and security police investigations and cooperation with other international police forces, as well as with institutions over corruption cases, and for developing tools to combat corruption. It was created following recommendations of the Council of Europe’s special anti-corruption monitoring group, GRECO.
Lessy would apparently like to keep the new Czech unit answerable in the first instance to himself, as is currently the case of the ÚOKFK. The Austrian unit it may be modeled on has a staff of around 100; the exact numbers of people working at the ÚOKFK is not made public, but spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej said it had a slightly bigger staff.
The Police President says the first steps towards creating his vision of the new anti-corruption unit could take place this year if clearance is given by Minister of the Interior Jan Kubice (non-aligned).
The idea of a stronger Czech anti-corruption unit was raised in the wake of positive results from ÚOKFK’s 2011 activities, including a threefold rise to Kč 4.3 billion of the value of seized assets subject to criminal investigations and a sharp rise in the number of individuals charged.
Lessy’s proposed changes come against the backdrop of sharp cuts in spending and suggestions that around a quarter of the currently 40,000-strong national police force might be cut as a result by 2014.
See related article: Policing without the police