The 167th anniversary of the establishment of the National Police Department was celebrated all over the country on Tuesday and the police force received the public’s appreciation for its steps in helping the country’s efforts towards democratization and its successful law enforcement role.
Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) manager Süleyman Özeren told Sunday’s Zaman that the police department is one of the most reliable institutions in Turkey. He said the positive public image of it is not an empty perception but the fruits of the transformation that the police department has gone through in the last couple of decades.
“The police have started accepting and evaluating criticism from the public and started bringing on board educated officers with better training at police academies. With transparency and the acceptance of criticism, the police have gained the public’s trust,” he said.
According to the USAK manager, the Turkish police force is now a more powerful force against criminal networks like Ergenekon, a clandestine network charged with plotting to overthrow the government, and terrorist organizations like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
He pointed out the democratizing improvements taken by the police force by giving the example that not one single anti-democratic step had been taken by the police in the cases of Ergenekon, the KCK, the PKK, the Sledgehammer coup case or any other similar cases. He added that the police department has made great efforts to rid itself of Turkey’s regime of tutelage and is showing zero tolerance towards its members who violate human rights or break the law.
Özeren told Sunday’s Zaman that statistics revealed by the National Police Department show that 95 percent of criminal cases were successfully solved by the police department in the past year.
Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman in an interview, Strategic Research and Study Center (SAREM) President Önder Aytaç, said the Turkish police force had improved in the last decade and received more trust from the public. However, he added that there are still many issues that the National Police Department needs to look into.
Mentioning that the vast majority of police officers are university graduates, he said there was still a lack of profession-related education and added that police officers should see themselves as members of the public responsible for the security of the public and state. He said that despite the better image of the police, people still come across unhelpful responses or poor service. He added that the police should not just be embraced by some segments of society, but by everyone and that one of the primary ways to achieve this is not to use too much force in demonstrations.
In an interview with Sunday’s Zaman, an official from the National Police Department’s Public Relations Office stated that, unlike in the past, the Turkish police have gained the trust of the people. Evaluating the reasons behind this positive public response, he stated that there are three areas in which the national police department has improved: judicial-regulative, educational and technological enhancements. He said that in terms of improvements in regulations, the police force has a clearly defined role and knows how far its responsibilities extend or when prosecutors should intervene in complicated cases. He added that in the past, the internal policies of the police were not clear and it was not possible to talk about transparency in the police.
However, the steps taken towards democratization have amended the rules and regulations of the police department and now the organizational structure and changes in the department are seen as an example for other countries that wish to improve their unreliable police departments, the National Police Department’s Public Relations Office official told Sunday’s Zaman. He added that when we look at the technological developments in the Turkish police force, we can see that the department is trying to use all the latest technology to solve cases, provide better service and keep the public safe from security threats.
To give an example, he stated that under a recent regulation, penalty points will be issued to drivers for traffic offences detected by the Electronic Detection System and Mobile Electronic Systems Integration (MOBESE). The National Police Department hopes this regulation will deter drivers from violating traffic rules. In addition, data received from the National Police Department state that around 9 million traffic fines were issued in 2011. The data also indicate that the amount earned from fines issued for traffic violations in 2011 was almost TL 1 billion.
According to the National Police Department’s Public Relations Office official, becoming a police officer used to be easy and a person did not even need a high level of education to join the force. However, in today’s Turkey, teenagers who want to become police officers have to go through special exams to get a place at police academies, where they receive a high quality education.
Furthermore, a graduate can become a police officer after completion of six months of this education and high school graduates can do so after two years of higher education, where they are solely trained on becoming a police officer. The increased education levels of the police force bears fruit as educated police officers have better relations with the community.