Inquiry chair: Hearings show police chiefs but puppets under this govt

Ljubljana – Rudi Medved, an opposition MP heading the inquiry into alleged political interference in police work, summed up a series of witness hearings on Monday by saying these confirmed the Slovenian police commissioners under the current government were “but obedient executors of ruling politics” while experts had no say in the force.

Medved, an MP for the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), said the testimonies led to the conclusion incumbent Police Commissioner Anton Olaj as well as his predecessors Anton Travner and Andrej Jurič “sided with politics in key moments, always at the cost of expertise”.

“As a result, the Slovenian police force is subject to literally brutal staffing, with people bing reassigned from one place to another like figures on a chessboard,” Medved asserted after today’s interviews.

As one example he offered a demand that he said came right after the new government assumed office for a crime investigator to be given back his job in the force after he was suspended due to inappropriate conduct in workplace in a decision upheld by a court.

He said a “line of people” opposed his re-employment, including the police commissioner’s office and the internal security and integrity sector.

Medved said Jurič as the then acting commissioner agreed with the experts on that point, but was succeeded by Olaj, who despite disagreeing with the officer’s re-employment, “buckled under the pressure”. Meanwhile, the head of the integrity sector quit his job over the matter.

Medved went on to say the government also failed to heed experts’ opinion in amendments to the police organisation and work act as experts had been opposed to changes to the appointment procedure for top posts in the force.

“It’s all to the detriment of some 8,000 police employees, who are concerned about the situation, and who, above all, don’t want to get the label that the Slovenian police force is a partisan police force.”

The MP said the hearings conducted so far testify “people at lower ranks in the police don’t have their opinions but they carefully adapt them to what the ruling politics tells them”.

That, he said, was corroborated in the hearing of Dejan Čulk, the official who operatively led the police intervention at the 5 October protest against Covid restrictions. Medved said that he on the one hand agreed with the politics while he also expressed doubt whether the operation was in fully in line with the police expertise.

Medved said the testimonies gave the “impression people are scared and don’t dare to speak out”, while he believes the fact-finding commission formed by the police clearly established “unusually excessive use of coercive measures” at the 5 October protest.

Čulk, the head of the uniformed police sector of the Ljubljana Police Department, told the commission the coercive measures – a water cannon and tear gas – had been correctly applied given the situation and violations that were taking place.

He said that policing during the protest had been done based on information found on social media, but did not confirm Medved’s speculation that the scope of coercive measures had been the largest since Slovenia gained independence, claiming their use had been proportional to the intensity of the violations.

Čulk confirmed that Olaj and Interior Ministry State Secretary Franc Kangler had visited the operation HQ he was in charge of, saying that he could not remember Kangler giving any comments or instructions. Olaj meanwhile inquired about the situation and the pair left the HQ after some ten minutes, Čulk added.

The parliamentary inquiry is working on an interim report, which Medved said would record the findings from the hearings that indicated the allegations of political pressure and staffing and interference in investigations set out as the inquiry was set up had been proven.

The inquiry decided to fine former acting commissioner Jurič for refusing to be interviewed and answer certain questions without reasonable grounds.