Police and Intelligence Agencies and the Democratization Process

Police and intelligence agencies
and the democratization process
By Miroslav Mareš
Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Studies,
Masaryk University in Brno
The Greek word politeia - the orderly state of the city, or
activity toward its achievement.
All activities by the state.
The state administration.
The internal state administration.
Modern use:
Special segment of the state administration.
Purpose: the protection of order and the internal
security of the state.
Authority to use force or the threat of force.
Internal security
Internal security is the state of affairs under which to the
greatest possible extent internal threats have been
eliminated, and the state is willing and able to confront
existing or potential internal threats.
Threats may concern:
 the political system vs. its enemies (for example extremism),
 the social system vs. general criminality,
 the economy vs. corruption and economic crime,
 the social, economic, and political system as a whole vs.
organized crime.
Secret or intelligence services
The fundamental task of the secret services is to acquire
information for political decision making.
However, they are frequently misused (especially in nondemocratic countries) to give out disinformation, fix political
trials, to kidnap or murder the opposition, and for internal
security investigations as well.
Secret services are either
 civil or military,
 internal or external (within or without the country’s borders).
Police and secret services under
communist regime
The police and secret services were among the most discredited
elements of the regime in the ČSSR.
They took brutal measures against their own citizens for political
A large proportion of their members harbored negative attitudes
towards the new democratic system.
The building of trustworthy security services was one of the
important issues in the transformation.
The transition to democracy
 During the transition to democracy, the role of the police and
intelligence agencies is especially important.
 The police and the intelligence services have been pillars of
the authoritarian regime, but they are necessary institutions
for the new democratic regime as well.
 The transition to democracy is often accompanied by a rise in
criminality, the introduction of new forms, and the emergence
of active extremist groups that may be working to restore the
old regime or install a new non-democratic regime under a
different ideology.
 In multi-ethnic states separatist violence may occur.
Reforming the police
The police cannot be simply dissolved. It performs necessary
tasks (criminal investigation, traffic safety, etc.)
After the fall of a non-democratic regime it is best:
 to dissolve the units that were aimed against the democratic
 and remove from the other departments as many discredited
individuals as possible.
Other police personnel must enjoy the proper conditions to carry
out their profession, including decent pay and benefits.
Emphasis must be placed on training and educating new young
Models of police administration
There exist various models, and none can be said to be
universally applicable. The new democratic political elite
must decide what model to select.
Few examples:
 Police is strongly tied to a centralized government (France).
 Police is linked to local government (American sheriffs).
 In federal states the division of powers between central and
federal elements must be addressed.
 Gendarmes can perform various tasks alongside the police.
 Specialized units such as the border guard, coast guard, etc.
 Besides the national police, some countries allow municipal
and community police.
 Private security agencies.
 Police can also work with citizens (a neighborhood watch).
Transformation of the intelligence
services (internal security)
In non-democratic regimes the secret police are often among the
regime’s most hated elements, responsible for persecution of the
opposition and civilian population. They usually have a network of
secret collaborators.
After the fall of a regime, the best option seems to be:
To dissolve these services in their existing form.
Top officials and informants can be prevented through lustration
laws from taking part in state administration in a new society.
Archives should be made accessible to police and the organs of
justice to punish crimes committed under the previous regime.
The archives should be made available to scholars as well.
Transformation of the intelligence
 Some new democracies do not give the intelligence services
investigative powers; others do.
 Uncompromised specialists can be preserved, but the main
personnel base must be rebuilt with new, uncompromised
people (possibly with the assistance of foreign allies).
 The external intelligence agencies: the network of agents and
agencies must be slowly withdrawn and replaced.
 Military intelligence service and specialized intelligence
services must also undergo transformation.
 The powers and range of the new service or services must
be clearly defined, which requires a responsible analysis of
the long-term and short-term security threats.
Oversight of the police and IS
 In a democratic society the police and intelligence services
are subject to internal and external controls.
 Chief directors of police and intelligence services are named
by the elected executive organs.
 The police and intelligence services are subject to oversight
by parliament, usually via special parliamentary committees.
 It is a good custom for the chairmen of such committees to
be a member of the opposition.
 Parliamentary investigative committees may be set up.
 The activities of intelligence agencies require a certain
degree of permanent secrecy.
Secret services and police in
communist Czechoslovakia
 The National Security Corps, which came under the Ministry
of Defense. From its creation in 1945 it served the power
interests of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
 It was divided into the Public Security and State Security.
State Security was the most feared department of the
communist apparatus.
 State Security was subordinate to the Communist Party. It
was not subject to parliamentary oversight, was organized on
the basis of sub-legal norms, combining the police and
intelligence-gathering functions, and was centrally directed.
 State Security was divided into departments according to
field of activity.
State Security (StB)
 State Security (StB) often employed very brutal methods.
 The worst excesses occurred during the early 1950s
 State Security maintained an extensive network of secret
 In late 1989 the agency’s network included some 25,000
people; since the 1950s around 140,000 people had been
part of it.
 People who informed for State Security gained various
advantages for themselves and those close to them.
 Some of them were forced into it by blackmail and various
forms of pressure.
The institutional reform and
personnel change
The police and intelligence agencies were reformed after 1989.
 Some members of the communist police and secret services
departed on their own, others as a result of the review
committees and the lustration law.
 The lustration law: selected offices in the state cannot be
occupied by members and collaborators with State Security.
 Many people from the anti-communist opposition joined the
intelligence services and police.
 Many members of the security services underwent training
courses in the western democracies.
 Gradually these state agencies were rejuvenated with new
graduates schooled under democratic conditions.
The institutional reform
 On the institutional level, intelligence and investigative
activities were strictly separated.
 State Security (StB) was dissolved in February, 1990. The
new internal intelligence service was formed (Security
Information Service - BIS)
 There is a clear legal definition of the competencies of the
intelligence services.
 BIS is subordinate to the government of the CR (not the
ministry of the interior). The director of the BIS is named by
the government in consultation with the appropriate
committee of the Parliament.
 The BIS does not have investigative powers, and cannot
arrest people. Each year the BIS publishes a report on its
activities for the previous year.
Some negative consequences
 The non-violent regime change meant that the security forces
were reformed gradually.
 Because of the peaceful change, public dissatisfaction with
the communist State Security did not result in violent excesses
against its members.
 On the other hand, however, the gradual pace of events
allowed members of State Security to destroy a great deal of
important material.
 Also there was probably a transfer of a great deal of property
to structures founded by former State Security members.
Police institutional reform
 The Police of the Czech Republic is defined by law as an
armed security corps that carries out tasks in the area of
internal public order and security. It is subordinate to the
Ministry of the Interior.
 Organizationally it is divided into the Police Presidium CR,
headed by the president of police; and into other
departments with national or regional jurisdiction.
 The police president is named and removed by the interior
minister with the consent of the government. The interior
minister also oversees police inspection, which is there to
expose crimes committed by police.
 This is sometimes criticized by human rights activists, who
argue that inspection should be independent of the ministry
of the interior in order to prevent possible cover-ups.
Community or municipal police
 Besides the state police, the towns and villages also gained
the opportunity to set up their own community or municipal
 The local police are directed by the mayor, unless the local
council charges another member of the council with the task.
 The local police have far fewer powers than the state police,
with whom the municipal and community police must
New challenges and threats
 A major rise in the crime rate.
 The police have still not completely come to terms with this
 Society most concerned about the problems of corruption
and organized crime.
 Problems with active opponents of the democratic regime –
extremists, both on the right and on the left.
 Few signs of terrorist activity.