Cuts affect investigation ability, says police chief
Estonian police chief Elmar Vaher told ETV's investigative program "Pealtnägija" that the police forces are so understaffed that the resulting overload on the detectives means that some of the cases will never get investigated properly.
"Pealtnägija" editors have noticed an increasing number of cases, where a crime has been reported to the police and the police have launched a criminal investigation, but a few silent years later, the victim is sent a note saying that the investigation has been concluded without any actual results or anyone being prosecuted.
For instance, Lembit Kolk, a former officer, spent five years supplying the police with information about a financial crime committed in his apartment block, but none of the nine possible charges in this case led to prosecution. A detective finally replied to Kolk's inquiries with an honest confession, stating that the forced redundancy of 250 officers within the police system has led to a situation where she is unable to predict when the overworked detectives finally find the time to investigate a case.
Vaher did not contest this unusually frank statement, admitting to "Pealtnägija" that the police force is under-financed, the number of staff has been brought to a minimum, the people who remain are overloaded with cases and the money they take home in the end of the day does not even merit a comment.
The joint Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) will employ less people on January 1 than the police alone did seven years ago. Over the past five years, the number of police officers and border guards has declined from 6,100 to 5,000.
Many detectives have 60-70 open cases at once; there are some, who work on 200 at the same time. Naturally, a detective sitting on 200, or even 60-70 cases, cannot ensure satisfactory results. Vaher said the PPA is working toward lowering the average number of open cases per detective to 15-20 but how this is done is not implied.
He adds that motivating the detectives, who feel that their efforts count for very little as the workload simply smothers the difference they would otherwise be able to make to individual cases, is increasingly difficult.
Vaher said that one of the reasons for the labor cuts is an over-reliance on Eurostat, which constantly reports lower crime rates, and there is also room for improvements in legislation. For example, police presence is legally required in cases where there is little to no need for it in practice.
Money-wise, raising the salaries of the current employees to a level that the police chief finds acceptable would require around 10 million euros. Recruiting additional help would make this sum considerably higher.
The current financial situation means that choices on which cases to investigate will be made in the future as well, he said.