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Slovenian National Police

Written by John Zimmerman

After the death of Marshal Tito, Yugoslavia became divided into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. The separation of these countries from the mother country of Yugoslavia is often equated with memories of war crimes, brutality, and ethnic cleansing. NATO troops have been in the former Yugoslav Republic of Bosnia for 10 years enforcing basic human rights and preventing further wartime atrocities. Most recently in 1999, NATO was forced to enter Kosovo because of the same human right violations.

Slovenia was the first republic to successfully break away with minimal bloodshed and has prospered in its new place in European society. Like many of its European counter parts, Slovenia adopted a national police structure. Slovenia and its national police have become a model of successful adaptation to democracy and freedom while still incorporating elements of their Yugoslav communist past.

The Ministry of Justice provides the framework of laws, which the National Police operate within, as well as overseeing the judicial administration and the seven national prisons of the National Prison Administration. Another function of the Ministry of Justice is the directorate of denationalization, which aids Slovenia in parting with its communist state owned structures and helping ease the country into a democratic capitalist free market economy.

The police, however, fall subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, which is charged with the security of the state. There are approximately 6,900 police employees in Slovenia. Of these, 716 are commissioned officers.

At the national level the Director General of the police who is responsible for adopting guidelines, determining the national police strategy and monitoring the execution of police duties, leads the police.

Subordinate to the general police administration at the national level are eleven regional police directorates each led by a chief police superintendent. The regional police administration unit covers an area similar to a county in the United States. There are a total of 98 Slovenian police stations in the 11 regions.

Each police station has all its necessary infrastructure and staff thru the internal structure of a police division within each station. A chief police inspector and his staff lead the stations. In some locations police offices are manned by one or two individual police officers, similar to satellite offices within the United States.

The uniformed police directorate is responsible for several areas of Slovenian State Security. These elements include: traffic police, border police, marine police patrols, airport and railway police, a mounted horse police unit, K9 units, aviation units, and the police orchestra.

Traffic policing is considered a specialty that requires advanced specialized training in Slovenia. Similar to American traffic police officers, Slovenians utilize both radars and lasers for traffic enforcement. Each police station will normally have one traffic patrol and two other patrols each shift so that there are three patrols of two persons each on each shift seven days a week.

To aid in traffic highway safety, Slovenia has begun to implement remote photo and radar camera units on some of Slovenia’s super highways. In 2001, 334 people died on Slovenian roads. There are 1,901 police vehicles in Slovenia, which includes 102 intervention vehicles and 156 motorcycles.

The Slovenian border police are responsible for 893 miles of state borders. There are a total of 163 border crossings in which over 200 million persons pass through on a yearly basis. The chief goal of the border police is to prevent illegal migrations and the related aspects of organized crime.

The marine police unit works closely with the border police. The marine police patrol 29 miles of Slovenian coast and 200 square miles of territorial sea. The marine police unit has two boats, a 15-foot P88 rubber speedboat and a 40-foot P111 rescue boat with a five-member crew. The boat is equipped with two radars, a Global Positioning Satellite, and electronic map and a depth indicator.

In addition to controlling the borders, the Marine police unit also controls sea traffic, sea fishing, sea ecology, water rescues, and monitoring submarine activities. The airport and railway police are responsible for the security of Slovenia’s three airports and the Slovenian railway network.

There are 20 horses in the Slovenia mounted police unit. Sixteen of which are in the capitol of Ljubljana and four in the mountainous border region of Maribor adjacent to Croatia. The mounted police in Slovenia have a long tradition and utilize Hanover, Czech and English breeds. They participate in security at all large public gatherings and in areas inaccessible by motor vehicles.

In 1949, the Yugoslav Police Dog School was established in Ljubljana. Utilizing mostly German Shepherds, Slovenian police dogs are utilized to patrol the border, railways and airports. They are also used for search and rescue, drug and explosive detection and to monitor large public gatherings. Some rottweilers are used to maintain public order and Labrador retrievers are now being integrated into drug and explosive detection.

The flight police unit is equipped with four Augusta Bell helicopters, a Model AB206 jet ranger, and two medium categories AB212 for mountain rescues and an AB412. The flight police unit assists with traffic enforcement, conducts aerial searches for criminal suspects, aerial search and rescues, medevac and mountain rescue operations.
The police orchestra was initially founded under Yugoslav control in 1948, and has grown from the Peoples Police Band of 20 musicians to a full orchestra of 60 musicians today. They hold about one hundred and fifty performances year and act as Slovenia’s first ambassador in greeting foreign dignitaries and performing at national celebrations.

The criminal investigation police are a specialized service within the Slovenian National Police. Nationwide, there are 88 criminalists that serve as what we would term detectives or investigators. Uniformed police investigate minor criminal acts. Criminalists handle cases of serious crime that require special research, knowledge or technical equipment.

Local Criminal Investigations groups operate within individual police stations, especially in urban areas. To assist with specific cases, each of the eleven regional police directorates can organize a mobile investigations group. Within the criminal investigations police, there are national specialists in organized crime, computer crime, crime analysis and the forensic lab and research center. Also organized within the criminal investigations police is the central national bureau of Interpol. Slovenia became a full Interpol member in 1992.

Slovenian criminalists are unique and different from their American detective and investigator counterparts in that they do not have to have ever served as a uniformed police officer. Any Slovenian Police Officer, whether uniformed or criminalism is also entitled to collect the reward money for criminals that are wanted. The most common crimes that Slovenian Police officers spend their time on are drugs, bicycle theft, wallet theft and burglaries. Violent crime is nominal.

Being a national police force the Slovenian National Police maintain a unit similar to protective services unit. This unit is responsible for protecting domestic and visiting heads of state. The bureau also protects the nations most important government buildings and institutions.

Each of the eleven regional police directorates and the police academy maintains a 113 emergency reporting center. Similar to our 911 reporting center there is also a separate toll free number for citizens who wish to report anonymous information to the police. Slovenia is currently outfitting its police cars with GPS receivers to reduce response times. In urban areas there is generally a five-minute police response time.

The national level general police directorate operations and communications center maintains the GIS (geographical information system), which is the clearinghouse for database information similar to our NYSPIN system.

The special unit is composed of 274 members in three separate regional teams. The special unit is a swat team that is subordinate to the national level general police directorate. The special unit is involved in Counter terrorism activities, arresting dangerous criminals, and cooperation with the protection and security bureau in the protection and security bureau in the protection of dignitaries and visiting foreign officials. The special unit conducts 40 to 50 operations annually. Each of the units are composed of regular police officers that are on call to serve when needed.

The average age of a Slovenian police officer is 29 years old. Every four years they receive a pay increase with a promotion. The Slovenia Police is an up or out organization, in which if a police officer fails to receive a promotion he can be separated from the police service. They normally work eight to 12 hours per day for total of 167 hours in a month. Beyond that they are paid overtime.

An in-house union, the PCC or Slovenian Police Syndicate, represents police officers. Although there is pride in the establishment of the union, there is also the feeling that there is very little gained at the bargaining table. Union representatives are elected to four-year terms.

In order for a Slovenian police officer to retire he must complete 30 years of service. Each year of service counts as slightly more than one year towards retirement so that upon retirement the officer is paid for 34 years of service.

There are several routes to becoming a police officer in Slovenia. The most common route is to pass a written civil service exam after completion of primary and secondary school, and then attend an 18-month police-training program at the Slovenian national police academy located in the City of Tacen near the Capitol Ljubljana. The police academy is a non-military residential program of instruction for six months.

Upon completion of this phase, a junior police officer is sent to the field for a six month practical on the job training without a gun. Each junior police officer is assigned to work with a different police officer every day. They are assigned one police officer mentor who conducts evaluations and writes reports about the junior police officers individual performance.

Upon completion of this phase of training, a junior police officer will normally be assigned to administrative duties for the next and last six months of their training. This time is intended to allow the junior police officer to study for their comprehensive final police exam. Upon passing this exam about one and half years after initially entering the police service the junior police officer is promoted to the rank of police officer and is now fully qualified to carry a firearm.

Another route to becoming a Slovenian police officer is to attend the College for Police and Security Studies. The Ministry of Interior as a means maintains this college for commissioning officers for middle management positions within the National Police. The Commissioned officers never have to have served as a rank and file police officer on the street. For entrance to the police college, an applicant must possess a post secondary vocational education.

Slovenia also maintains a four-year police high school. This high school stems from Slovenia’s communist past and serves as another way for entrance into the Slovenian National Police. Students enter at age 14 and graduate at about age 18. The police high school trains, cultivates and qualifies young Slovenians to become police officers. Currently Slovenia is phasing out the police high school as a source of qualification. The primary reason is the lack of maturity level of these very young police candidates.

The Slovenian police Academy also maintains training and education center for areas of advanced and specialized police instruction, a service dog training division in which German Shepherds are trained to become police K9’s to search for drugs and explosives. The police academy also hosts the training of auxiliary police officers and a support division.

The national police museum offers collections of drugs, blood, sex and property offenses, economic and political crime, juvenile delinquency, public safety, and an overview of centuries of crime and punishment.

There are two standard issue firearms used by officers of the Slovenian National Police.

The Crvena Zastava Model 70 pistol is a 7.65mm caliber pistol with an 8 round magazine. These pistols are usually issued to new police officers and are currently being phased out of service. The Beretta Model 92 and Model 8000 9mm with 15 round magazines are being used to replace the smaller model 70’s. Officers of the Slovenian Police conduct firearms training four times a year. Each officer fires fifteen rounds of ball ammunition. Jacketed expansion rounds are not permitted.

The special unit employs a variety of special use weapons and sub machine guns to include Heckler and Koch models. Individual patrol vehicles are equipped with folding stock 7.62x39mm Yugoslav Communist M59/66 assault rifles. These weapons are Yugoslav version of the AK47 assault rifle.

The typical gun belt consists of a holster, handcuffs, and one extra 15 round magazine, radio and a rubber baton. Collapsible, side handle and straight batons are not employed by Slovenia police officers. The hard rubber baton allows officers to seek compliance without the weapon being capable of inflicting deadly physical force.

The Slovenian Police are now field-testing the use of Pepper spray. Some patrol cars are equipped with a canister of pepper spray, rather than individual patrol officers carrying it on their duty belt. Noticeably missing from the standard equipment of Slovenian Police Officers are bulletproof vests. Slovenian police officers on patrol feel that violent crime against them is nominal and that there is no tangible benefit to wearing vests. Also missing from the patrol uniform are nametags. They are not considered necessary for the efficiency of the police.

In a national survey, 75.6% of Slovenians stated that they felt safe. Eight three percent stated that they felt that the responding police officer was polite and 79.4% of Slovenian stated that they either completely or mostly trust the police.

Bringing the police closer to the public and developing a partnership with the public is one of the primary strategic goals of the Slovenian Police. In transforming from a communist dictatorship to a democracy, the Slovenian National Police has made tremendous strides in adopting Western police practices to become a trusted entity of the government of a people who have not yet lived a full generation free of regulatory, scrutinizing communist state security police service.

John Zimmerman has been a trooper with the New York State Police for 10 years, where he has served as a field training officer and crime scene technician. After September 11, 2001, he served in the Army Reserve as the Antiterrorism NCO for Kosovo, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Greece. He can be reached at jkzim@bluefrog.com.


Published in Law and Order, Mar 2005

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