The Ministry of the Interior is considering delegating some of its public power to local authorities. In response, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has submitted a number of arguments against granting municipal police forces the right to use force.
The Ministry of the Interior recently presented a draft bill according to which municipal police authorities would be given the right to use force. According to how this is currently regulated, local public order enforcement authorities like Tallinn’s Municipal Police (Mupo) can issue warnings and tickets, but do not have the right to use physical force against anyone.
The bill would extend these competencies to include determining whether or not an individual is intoxicated, arrest and individuals that disrupt public order for up to 48 hours, and use handcuffs if required.
Local authorities lack training, experience, internal supervision
The chancellor does not see such measures as justified. According to Helen Kranich, advisor at the Office of the Chancellor of Justice, giving local authorities the power to take care of public order may be desirable, but other means than force could be used to do so.
“If this activity reaches the limit at which people are affected, limiting their rights and freedoms or using direct force, then this needs to be done by those who have the necessary skills, knowledge, and training, and that is the police,” Kranich said.
According to the ministry, a corresponding training program would of course be created to prepare local authorities for their expanded list of tasks. Still, Madise points out in her recommendations that the police’s experience as well as internal audits could not be disregarded.
In addition the chancellor does not consider one-off training of officers sufficient preparation. In the case of Estonia’s police, officers would regularly be checked for their fitness for duty, Madise points out.
Another argument is of a more directly legal nature. Madise points out that the Law Enforcement Act was created for the police to be able to define exactly what a breach of the public order was, and to be applied all over the country, while local authorities rather relied on their own municipality or city’s public order regulations, the chancellor pointed out.
“If now the new direction is to entrust public power to someone else beyond the police, then this can’t have the result that I change the legal environment every time I cross a local border. That I don’t know what’s forbidden and what’s allowed,” Kranich explained.
The Tallinn Municipal Police has already expressed its support of the ministry’s bill, mainly based on their everyday dilemma that every time they catch people fare-dodging who then refuse to step off the tram or bus, they need to call the police to remove them.
Again, in response to this, the chancellor pointed out that some ten years ago there had even been the discussion whether or not joyriding should be punishable at all, seeing as it represented a breach of contract rather than a breach of the law, and hence legally was a civil matter.
Editor: Dario Cavegn