PPA chief: Past year a challenge, shows how far force has come in 30 years

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The Independence Day 103 reception in Paide. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Police chief Elmar Vaher, who was honored with a state decoration by President Kersti Kaljulaid this year, says that the past year had of course been challenging, but that the force had come a long, long way since independence.

Talking to ETV on independence day, Vaher said that while a Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) operative's most important weapon might be "Thought to be a pistol, in fact it is not. The greatest weapon a PPA officer has is his or her word, skill and wisdom. This wisdom and mode of expression we have used during the COVID-19 pandemic has been effective."

This was borne out by the public's perception of the PPA, he said, noting that 92 percent of the populace finds the force a credible one.

The year of restrictions stands out for him, particularly the spring closure of Saaremaa and Hiiumma, creating a closed zone within a closed zone, as coronavirus rates soared, at least on Saaremaa.

He said: "Essentially we have been in a crisis situation for more than a year, so we are an organization which has maintained crisis management for more than a year. Let's be honest, we still hadn't tried border control in Hiiumaa and Saaremaa for a long time [prior to the pandemic]. This last happened back in the Soviet era, when the islands were a closed, militarized sensitive border zone."

This time around, travel to and from the islands was permitted only by full-time residents, during the emergency situation which ran mid-March to mid-May last year. Saaremaa is however again seeing rising coronavirus rates, having been stable through much of the time from last summer onwards.

The police celebrates its 30th anniversary (it was renamed the PPA around a decade ago following a merger with the previously separate border guard – ed.) on March 1, Vaher noted, while he has served around 20 years of that time.

The difference between the early days and now is like night and day, he noted, recalling one incident from early on in his career where a patrol car which had no functioning first or third gear was nonetheless in use, while weekends were generally exactly that, meaning some cases had to wait a couple of days before being resolved.

"This is all fortunately a thing of the past, and I'm stress the word fortunately!" he said.

The president awarded the Order of the Eagle Cross, 2nd Class, to Vaher, as part of her independence day honors list.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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