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Kosovo Police: Protecting you, protecting Kosovo

27 February 2015

When EULEX arrived in Kosovo, expectations were very high, and particularly around ending corruption and organized crime. This is the part of our work that normally attracts newspaper headlines. But since 2008, EULEX's mandate has also had another mission - assisting Kosovo Police to achieve sustainability and accountability and ensuring that KP is free from political interference and adhering to internationally recognised standards and European best practices. As we look at Kosovo's progress, I believe it's important to reflect not just on dramatic courtroom prosecution of high-profile trials, but also on the quieter evolution of the Kosovo Police.

In the past six months, Kosovo Police have had several opportunities to show that they have matured into a modern police force meeting international standards. Those of us that have stood by KP as it grew were not disappointed. Three areas by which a police force's capabilities can be judged are public order events, elections security, and VIP events and escorts. In all three areas, Kosovo police have proven that they are able to make mature decisions and practice proportional response. 

The most recent test for the police was in late January, when several groups came together to protest. Demonstrations are a sign of a functioning democracy, but among these protesters there were some who I believe were intent on violence and destruction. Protestors threw rocks at the police and called them horrible names, and yet KP showed impressive restraint. Their response overall was proportional and appropriate. Though some demonstrators were injured, the number of injured police far exceeded the number of injured demonstrators. I know that some protestors have alleged police abuse, but here's the truth: 4 official complaints were made, and these are being investigated. On the other hand, on their own, KP identified 11 possible incidents and initiated investigations. KP's willingness to examine its own behaviour in the interest of providing better public service is a sign of a mature organization that holds itself accountable to the public. In the 2014 PASOS Open Society Poll, Kosovo Police earned a 60.9% trust rate, higher than any other public institution in Kosovo, and higher than any other police force in the region. This was echoed in EULEX's internal polling, which also found that Kosovo Police were the most trusted institution in Kosovo.

As I recall that day, I think of the more than 700 individual police officers who were deployed to ensure that Kosovo's citizens were able to exercise their right to peaceful protest. More than 100 of these officers – your brothers and sisters – were injured protecting Kosovo. To stand and defend, as protestors hurl rocks, insults, and worse, is an act of heroism and worthy of your respect. Bob Dylan (who I believe is best enjoyed on the original vinyl!) said "I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom." I believe that heroes are among us every day here in Kosovo, fighting step by step, to bring rule of law for everybody, and it's important to take a moment to acknowledge them.

Since June 2014, EULEX has continued its work with KP, but with fewer advisors than in the past, acknowledging KP's progress. There are still areas where improvements are needed, and EULEX is dedicated to working with KP to address these. Looking forward, EULEX will continue to work on the full breadth of our mandate, which includes advising, executive actions (such as trials), and assisting with the Dialogue implementation. However, even as we focus on the future and what remains to be accomplished, I believe that we must occasionally step out of the fray and call attention to those who are making quiet, steady progress towards ensuring that Kosovo institutions become something its people can be proud of. 

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