Strengthening Community Policing in the North

28 July 2015

EULEX regional advisor to community policing, Robert Berendse, and station advisors, Dennis Anderson and Frank Lillelund, have daily tasks in community policing in the north. On most days, they meet with Kosovo Police (KP) local station commanders and sector leaders to transfer their knowledge and equip them with best practices and proven methods at community policing. To explain what community policing is, Robert Berendse usually sums it up with two choice words: “The difference between community policing and policing in general is in being proactive versus being reactive. Once you identify troublesome trends, the idea is to take preemptive measures to stop those problems before they resurface.”

Policing is not new to Robert Berendse – he has forty three years of experience with various units throughout the Netherlands. His first encounter with community policing came in Veenendaal, a medium-sized town in the Netherlands, where he was officer of duty. Community policing was already developed at a high level in Veenendaal. From there it expanded with the police holding regular meetings with citizen committees in various places and fortifying trust with those communities to collectively address crime. 

Community policing proved to be effective at preventing and reducing crime, and so Robert’s skills came to be valued in places where the approach was still not being put into practice. The goal of community policing is simple, it aims to bring the police and the community it serves closer together to identify and address public safety priorities.   

The role of EULEX advisors is to coach and mentor their counterparts at KP and oversee the process of community policing at the local and regional levels. For Robert Berendse, this would be, Milija Milosevic, the KP Regional Coordinator for Community Policing for north Kosovo, a colleague that sits one floor below him at the EU House in north Mitrovica. It is Robert’s role to explain the philosophy behind this new way of policing that involves police officers working with residents to address issues that directly affect them. The Regional Coordinator, Robert’s counterpart, oversees the four northern stations – one for each municipality. Within each station there are several sectors, with each station having a sector coordinator and each sector having a sector leader. Robert and the KP Regional Commander engage on a daily basis to find ways to change the philosophy behind policing in northern Kosovo. That task usually involves new approaches at problem solving, such as building confidence with citizens of a given community to establish trust and collaboration in order to prevent crime and, as Robert likes to emphasize, employing proactive rather than reactive policing.   

Collaboration with citizens has already taken shape and the trust between police and the community is strengthening. The OSCE has helped establish Local Public Security Committees (LPSC), a group of local residents who can best address the problems that they are directly impacted by. KP is slowly engaging on an increasing basis with LPSCs to collectively identify crime patterns and ways to combat them. Given that local citizens are keenly aware of when and where crime tend to occur, it is particularly useful that police work together with them not only to solve crimes after they take place, but take active measures at preventing them before they occur.  EULEX advisors work in the background to facilitate this process. While the EULEX Regional Advisor and KP Regional Coordinator oversee the implementation of community policing on the larger scale, EULEX station advisors work with KP on the details of engaging with communities. Some of that work involves practical issues such as assisting KP to explain to citizens that LPSCs give them a voice and help manage the communities they live in. Other aspects focus on more intricate issues of community policing, such as ensuring that LPSCs are diversified to represent the makeup of their communities and seeing that LPSC meetings are properly led and communicate information to KP in an effective way. 

With about a dozen police sectors in north Kosovo, the goal is to have one LPSC per sector. This is not yet the case, but as community policing strengthens and the benefit of such policing starts to show, the hope is to have more people willing to become members of LPSCs and assist KP in making their communities safer. While LPSCs and similar citizen committees has flourished in north European countries, they are still struggling to retain sustainability and citizen buy-in in Kosovo. Citizens often loose interest once they realize there is no monetary compensation for participating in such an arrangement, failing to comprehend the positive outcomes that citizen-police collaborating brings. For now, Robert and the EULEX team of advisors continue to share their experience and best practices at community policing with KP and demonstrate the benefits that working together with local residents brings in preventing and reducing crime.