Police Officers Guilty of Domestic Violence Fined, Not Fired

Police, illustration. Photo: EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR

Police Officers Guilty of Domestic Violence Fined, Not Fired

25. December 2023.13:28
25. December 2023.13:28
At least six police officers are under investigation in Bosnia and Herzegovina for domestic violence, but internal cases against them have been suspended until the end of the criminal proceedings, Detektor has learned. In the past, police officers found responsible for domestic violence have been fined but not dismissed.

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His fellow officers apprehended him that day, and three months later, disciplinary proceedings against him were initiated.

He did not deny what he had done to his wife, and the disciplinary commission found that he had committed a serious breach of duty. He was punished by the imposition of a 15 per cent salary cut for two months.

After that, he continued working in the police’s intervention unit.

A Detektor investigation previously revealed that he is one of three police officers from Una-Sana Canton who have only been given a financial penalty for domestic violence.

Additional data collected by Detektor now shows that in other cantons too, police officers go on working for the force after being punished for domestic violence, or the proceedings against them drag on for months.

Such penalties are insufficient and do not send the right message to victims, said Samra Filipovic-Hadziabdic, Director of the Agency for Gender Equality of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“How will other victims report violence? A sound mind cannot understand how a person who committed violence can be allowed to keep on working,” said Filipovic-Hadziabdic.

Police officer Jasmin T. went on working for the force even after receiving his suspended sentence. He retired in February 2023.

The two other police officers from the Una-Sana Canton punished for domestic violence and were also only given financial penalties. Detektor will not reveal their names to protect the victims’ identities.

A few days before the end of 2017, police officer Almir F. verbally attacked his wife in Sanski Most and threatened her at their house in front of their son. The wife called the police, saying that her policeman husband had abused her for an extended period.

The initial reaction from his fellow officers was swift – they filed a report about the criminal offence of domestic violence, while the local court soon issued a prohibition order forbidding him from following and harassing his wife for a period of six months.

But it was not until June 2019 that a disciplinary penalty was imposed on him – a 20 per cent salary reduction for a period of four months.

Looking at mitigating circumstances, the disciplinary commission assessed that “the officer is a family man” who supports his family, and that during the proceedings he acted decently, was cooperative and accepted the disciplinary penalty.

Commission members believed that the fine would serve as punishment and that he would refrain from similar breaches of duty in the future.

Two years later, while he was drunk, Almir F. entered a DJ’s booth and spilled a drink. He penalised again, this time with a salary reduction lasting for six months.

Another officer, Jasmin M., was also punished with a salary cut for threatening his wife.
In 2021, Jasmin M. left his place of work and went home, wearing his uniform, during working hours. He then took his wife’s phone by force and threatened her, according to the disciplinary commission’s judgment said. After that, he sent her several messages with offensive content and, the following day, sent her death threats while he was on a police patrol near the Interior Ministry.

He was suspended for almost four months and punished with a 15 per cent salary cut for three months, because he breached the peace and endangered the mental health of his family while performing his official duties.

He was then reinstated – even though, as he told Detektor, criminal proceedings against him were still ongoing.

Illustration: Detektor

The law leaves a commissioner the option of suspending a police officer during the criminal proceedings. In the case of Jasmin M., the commissioner decided to terminate the suspension after the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings.

The police officer told Detektor that he held a certificate for working on domestic violence cases.

According to partial responses from police agencies, at least six police officers in Bosnia and Herzegovina are facing accusations of domestic violence.

Filipovic-Hadziabdic believes that, in addition to suspension, severe penalties should be imposed on police officers in such cases.

“There is no question that they should take their uniforms off. Not just be suspended,” Filipovic-Hadziabdic said.

She added that “zero tolerance should exist for everyone, and particularly those enforcing the law”.

“How can someone enforce the law if they are violating it? The least that can be done is to reassign them to a different position,” she said.

In the Federation entity, at the state level and in the Brcko District, if criminal proceedings start while disciplinary proceedings are underway, the practice is to suspend the disciplinary proceedings until the conclusion of the criminal case. In certain cases, police agencies decide not to suspend police officers against who are subject to disciplinary or criminal proceedings and allow them to continue doing their jobs.

Ana Crnkovic of the Social Work Centre in Bihac said that in her ten years of experience, she has seen that victims of domestic violence turn to the police for help more often than they do to the Social Work Centre – but the problem is that police officers are not trained to handle such cases.

“Unfortunately, there are still people in the police who are very prejudiced and insufficiently sensitive about this matter. To them, verbal and psychological violence do not represent a form of violence, they can’t recognise them. Only when someone causes injuries and bruises do they consider it violence. That is an even bigger problem,” Crnkovic said.

Responding to Detektor’s inquiry about how it deals with police officers who have committed domestic violence, the Interior Ministry of the Una-Sana Canton said that each of the three cases it had dealt with ended up in court. The ministry said domestic violence is a problem affecting the whole of society, so the police force cannot be immune to it either.

“All the cases that are reported are addressed as a priority and with sensitivity,” the ministry said in a written response, adding that each case was considered separately and sanctioned.

Esad Solak, chairman of the Board of Appeal of the Interior Ministry of Sarajevo Canton, said that, once a police officer’s indictment for domestic violence has been confirmed by the court, the officer’s supervisor should propose suspension to the police commissioner.

“Suppose those officers go out on a call for reported domestic violence and perhaps the woman victim knows that the police officer has been accused of the same offence. How can she feel safe knowing that he too is a violent person, just like the man who committed violence [against her]?” Solak asked.

He explained that under the police ethics code, officers are obliged to fill out a form if they are charged with a criminal offence, after which their supervisor is supposed to submit a motion for suspension to the police commissioner.

Over the course of the past five years, internal investigations aimed at determining breaches of duty have been initiated in Sarajevo in three cases in which police officers were reported for domestic violence – specifically for verbal or physical attacks on women.

In one of the cases from 2018, the internal investigation determined the complaints were well-founded, but later the disciplinary commission dropped the charge against the officer after his wife revoked her complaint.

Two internal investigations into police officers in Sarajevo were launched last year but were suspended until the conclusion of criminal proceedings or criminal investigations. The internal investigations will then be resumed.

In one of these two cases, the police officer has also been suspended, said the Interior Ministry of Sarajevo Canton.

Sandi Dizdarevic, a university professor and security expert, said that disciplinary or criminal offences committed during service require an urgent preventive suspension. If the criminal offences are not committed during service, the rules dictate that the police officers involved should not be suspended, said Dizdarevic.

“Every police officer against whom criminal proceedings have been initiated must be suspended preventively for the sake of the investigation and the criminal proceedings,” Dizdarevic said.

Criminal proceedings for domestic violence are underway against one officer at the Directorate for Coordination of Police Bodies; the officer has been held in custody for some time already. He has also been suspended until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.

In Posavina Canton, the police force’s Unit for Professional Standards asked to launch disciplinary proceedings against three police officers due to the existence of grounds for believing that they seriously breached their duty by committing the serious criminal offence of domestic violence.

The disciplinary commission formally initiated the proceedings and suspended the officers until the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

In August this year, the Interior Ministry of Zenica-Doboj Canton initiated disciplinary proceedings against a police officer for serious misconduct – the criminal offence of domestic violence – but the officer was not punished because he retired.

Nedzad Korajlic, a professor at the Faculty of Criminalistics, Criminology and Security Studies at Sarajevo University, argued that police officers charged with serious criminal offences should be removed from active policing duties and redeployed to administrative jobs in which they will not be allowed to carry weapons or interact with the public.

“In such situations, victims [of domestic violence] are in a quandary because they’re afraid that that the violent person could have an influence on the investigation from within the police department and they’re afraid that they will suffer no consequences [for committing the crime],” Korajlic said.

    Jasmin Begić

    This post is also available in: Bosnian