Police and Roma communities in Slovenia: an evaluation of the community policing approach
Policing multicultural communities presents challenges for contemporary policing. Historically and currently, the interactions between police and multicultural communities are often strained due to language barriers, cultural misperceptions on both sides, fear of outside authority figures on the part of marginalized groups etc. The Roma population, Europe’s largest minority, is a target of persistent persecution from each and every power in history and even in the present times, not only in countries that lack democratic tradition, but also in countries which consider themselves cradles of democracy. The first record of the Roma people in Slovenia goes back to the 14th century. Statistics show that approximately 3.200 Roma people live in Slovenia, but the actual number varies between 11.000 and 12.000. In Slovenia, the Roma community is a minority community recognized by the Constitution as a special community or minority with particular ethnic and cultural characteristics (its own language, culture and history). The constitutional provision was realized by the adoption of the Roma Community in the Republic of Slovenia Act (2007). Slovenia is among those European countries that include Roma in the management of public affairs at the local level (as Roma councillors). The relation between the police and Roma communities is crucial in many ways. Roma are often the target of racially motivated discrimination and violence. Being one of the most exposed pieces of the state apparatus, the police are implicated in Roma issue. Locally, they deal with security issues involving Roma people being lawbreakers as well as victims on a daily basis. As in other countries, in Slovenia too, police have adopted community policing philosophies and practices. It is important to prepare and train those public servants who have regular contact with members of the Roma community. In this context, training of police officers focuses on understanding and overcoming discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes. In 2003 in the Policy Academy started the project "Policing in a multi-ethnic community". The objectives of such training courses were to make police officers aware of their own prejudices, to introduce them Roma culture and traditions, (to understand the importance of a comprehensive approach, to evaluate ways of managing security events and to understand the importance of dialogue. The aim of the project was also to inform inhabitants of certain Roma settlements about legislative provisions concerning typical offences in certain areas and thus non-criminal incidents, causing discomfort to the neighbouring population. In the past years, more than 1950 police officers have participated in this training. Roma councillors and other representatives of the Roma population also participate actively in such training events. The results are manifold: fewer offences, fewer occasions when policemen were unable to carry out relevant procedures, more offences and crimes reported by Roma themselves, and joint management (within individual competencies) of complex security events that might, were they not resolved in a timely manner, become serious crimes.
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