Elmar Vaher, the former director of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), proposed a number of ideas to improve the work of the police on Monday. According to Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) many of these ideas are already in the planning stages.
"Much of this is in the works," Läänemets said of Vaher's ideas for reforming internal security. Vaher proposed, for example, closing the Paikuse school run by the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences (Sisekaitseakadeemia) and transferring certain specialties from the police academy to public universities. He also proposed keeping only three prefectures instead of four and replacing police officers with technology in traffic monitoring.
"For example, in the area of police training, we have started to raise funds to build the academy's new dormitories and classrooms in Tallinn over the next few years, which means that when these are ready, the police will move their training from Paikuse to Tallinn. The other location will be Väike-Maarja, where we will also build the tactical village, the autodromes and all the other things that either exist in Paikuse today or do not exist yet in Estonia at all," he said.
The Minister said that the second half of the reform of police training was already underway, which concerned the content of training: "That you don't have to study for years before being employed, and that we take into account your practical skills. If you pass the sergeant's course, you can become a sergeant, and if you study more, you can get the next position that demands additional skills, like in the military. In theory, police could come up with something similar. We aim to implement it next year."
Läänemets said that the police academy should not be completely abolished, since no other institution in Estonia provides police training. But students who want to pursue a career as a police officer, for example, could integrate this education into other qualifications they are obtaining.
"I think that certain courses, such as in psychology or in other related [to police work] disciplines taught in higher education can be transferred from other institutions of higher learning [to the police academy]. That's part of what we're doing now, and it's part of what we want to do more of – not by sending someone to study to Tallinn or Tartu University but by transferring the skills they have acquired there and making it much easier for them to acquire the specific skills they need for the police work. So you have already learnt something from one university, and now we are going to teach you something new," he explained.
Läänemets said he did not want to decide whether there should be one or two police officers on patrol at a time. "I'm not an expert on this, it's more about police tactics and security. The Police and Border Guard Board has never made this request and I, as a politician, am not going to tell you what our police tactics should be," the minister said.
Reducing the number of prefectures, however, as suggested by Vaher, would be a matter for the minister and the government, but Läänemets said this is not necessary. "Today, I don't think the question is about prefectures at all. The first concern is that we have people on the ground: people who deal with traffic and people who deal with investigations," he said.
"Today we are working on how to make up for what was lost under Elmar Vaher. For example, the police officers dealing with
minors (noorsoopolitsei, i.e., actions to be taken with a juvenile offender), which we no longer have in Estonia. We are trying to bring it back, I deal with these issues, so that every person feels as safe as possible." Läänemets said.
Vaher was the head of the Estonian police from 2013 to 2023. In an interview with Vikerhommik, he pointed out that the Police and Border Guard Board currently employs 4,500 people, which is the lowest number of police officers ever. The shortage of police officers and their low salaries call for major changes in the system, Vaher said.
Editor: Mait Ots, Kristina Kersa