Ministry of Interior wishes to expand rights of local governments

Municipal Police.
Municipal Police. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

In line with the government's wishes, the Ministry of the Interior has forwarded its recommendations on how to grant more rights to ensure the welfare and security of local governments. The recommendations, if they were adopted, would both decentralize some activities, but also increase both the responsibilities and rights of local authorities.

Local governments currently have the option to form a law enforcement unit, for instance. One concrete example of this is the well-known municipal police (MuPo) operating in Tallinn, but the ministry says it sees that the role of such bodies should be raised, while their rights should be expanded.

While local governments have been granted the right to state supervision and proceed with misdemeanors outside of court, they and their municipal police forces can't intervene effectively, end disruption and perform other functions.

As a result, disruptions, graffiti in the public space, public noise, consumption of alcohol or exploring dilapidated, hazardous buildings go on unabated in some cases, as there is no police patrol to react, ERR reports.

A recent example came at Tapa, home of a large NATO base, where a contretemps involving British Army soldiers from the base and some local residents, which was resolved by British Army Royal Military Police rather than the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA). A PPA patrol would have had to have come from Rakvere, about half-an-hour's drive away.

Moreover, Tallinn's MuPo is more the exception, than the rule, and most municipalities have no analogous force.

As a solution for increasing traffic security, the Ministry of the Interior says it sees an opportunity to grant local governments the right to establish traffic surveillance systems within their territories.

As a result of the amendment, establishing and using traffic cameras would start work via a tri-partite cooperation. The task of the local government is to procure and manage the devices, the Transport Agency's (Transpordiamet) role is managing the data of the tasks system and the PPA's function is to write up procedures, ERR reports, including fines.

50 percent of received income from fines would go into a local government's budget, under the new amendments.

In addition, room for improvement is seen in the cooperation at the local level, where activities relating to security and prevention are clearly assigned to a certain commission or a council.

The ministry also wants to make it a state-level security task for local governments to prepare for an extensive evacuation. This means that the local government would have to help residents and others within its auspices to evacuate, as well as to tend to their catering and accommodation needs and ensure necessary evacuation places are available.

Prevention activities and social aid questions should be operated by local governments

The Ministry of the Interior also says it wants to oblige the local governments to create treatment possibilities or services mitigating reasons of addiction problems.

When more local governments would be included in operating sobriety safe-houses, introducing continuing treatment or social services would be made easier and more efficient as well, the ministry found.

The ministry is referring to the Health Development Institute's proposal made in 2012 to make it local governments' responsibility to build and maintain sober homes because sobering is more of a social problem than disruption of public order.

The ministry also wants local governments to ensure essential social aid access throughout the day.

Currently, the problem is primarily that after five o' clock in the evening, child protection officials or social workers can't intervene or give aid to residents, who are instead turning to the police on such occasions.

While it is provided for by law to ensure social aid and services by the local governments, this are not in fact assured in practice.

With improving accessibility to social aid, residents would have better opportunities for receiving necessary accommodation, for example in a case of home violence.

It was also brought out that the nature of police work required fast reaction and action but in cases related to children, they may need calm communication supporting a sense of security.

The requirement to establish water sources would move from the public to local government

The Ministry of the Interior also sees the necessity to expand the local government obligations regarding water sources.

The ministry considers it unreasonable to apply this requirement to private individuals, because water sources are often established for several buildings.

At the same time, as a result, water sources without owners, which are not maintained would disappear.

The government is waiting for proposals to increase local governments' role from other ministries as well.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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