The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) is looking at options on making cuts, without either having to make lay-offs or reduce wages. One way of doing this would be to not replace personnel that leave the authority. This belt-tightening follows austerity measures outlined in the Reform/Center coalition's state budget strategy earlier this year.
Janne Pikma, PPA head of administration, says internal changes have already been made in the police in recent years and wage conditions have been improved.
Pikma said "We have continuously a large number of vacancies at the PPA that we have not managed to fill over a long period of time, and officers are working overtime".
"We must not wait and let recruitment fail, but in order to keep up with wage competition, also the IT sector, for instance, we need to make changes ourselves," she went on.
The requirement to cut costs is the result mainly of the state budget strategy announced earlier this year, which has also instigated cost cuts for the defense forces.
A separate, but related, issue is that of pay, which is still not sufficient to attract or retain enough officers, Pikma went on.
She said: "Considering the expectations that there are for police officers, for them to be both a civil and a criminal jurist on the street, the risks and responsibility of the job and the psychological preparedness, this amount is not enough to keep police officers on the job and recruit them."
"The PPA's aim is to have a police officer's salary 1.2 times the Estonian average, but the gap with the average is currently widening," Pikma added, noting that the state budget does not provide enough funding to this end, meaning other options will be looked at.
"We are also carrying out some internal restructuring, for example by reviewing management or redistributing work between services. This is all based on the principle that changes should not lead to a reduction in security," she went on.
Each unit will have to assess whether and how their work can be reorganized, she added, though not strict deadlines are in place for this task.
In any event, wages will not be cut, she said.
While lay-offs are not completely out of the question at present, Pikma said they could not be ruled out in the long run.
Ultimately, the PPA falls under the interior ministry's remit and, to that extent, it is not clear yet where and how many austerity measures will be implemented.
Not replacing some of those who leave the PPA and not actively recruited members, as well as recruiting only university graduates, and tightening up screening procedures, are all options the authority is looking at at present, she said.
Interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) is himself a former police chief.
The PPA was formed around a decade ago with the merger of the police and border guard authorities, formerly separate entities. It is one single force covering the entire country, split into four prefectures. It is augmented by a reserve of volunteer police personnel - MEP Jaak Madison (EKRE) was released from his position in the auxiliary reserve in April, after taking part in anti-lockdown protests. Tallinn has its own municipal police, with limited powers.
Editor: Andrew Whyte