The Baltic Times, TALLINN
Interview by Kairi Kurm
Jul 10, 2003
Kalle Laanet is an energetic young professional who, upon being appointed chief of police in Tallinn one-and-a-half years ago, had the courage to make big changes. He motivated the police force?s 1,400 employees with a new payment system and identified specific tasks for all units. As a result, the number of registered crimes fell by about 10 percent in the Estonian capital. Kairi Kurm interviewed Laanet last week at the Tallinn police headquarters.How would you rate the current safety level in the city of Tallinn on a five point grading scale?
I would give it 2, 2 plus or 3, depending on the time. My opinion certainly does not coincide with [that] of [Tallinn] citizens.
What are the priorities of the Tallinn police this year?
This year?s priorities are largely similar to those of last year. The first one is to put more officers out on the streets so that people feel more secure on their way home.
When I started in 2002 there were 15 to 20 patrols on the streets of Tallinn, and today there are 50 to 65 out there. It has brought a positive effect. We have managed to decrease the number of registered crimes by 10 percent. The number of street crimes has dropped even more.
The other priority is to minimize narcotic crimes. This year we are focusing mainly on dealers, and we have managed to send more people to court.
The level of crime has decreased in all types, and the number of closed cases increased by 47 percent in the first quarter of this year. Is it thanks to the motivating payment system?
We have divided the tasks very clearly in Tallinn. Before our team started it was very confusing, and everybody dealt with everything. Now some are responsible for street safety and others for discoveries and proceedings. Each unit has its own goals.
At the end of each quarter we look through the results and reward accordingly. This way an officer gets a clear vision of what is expected from him or her.
Although there are many vacancies on the force you are planning to dismiss a number of employees because they are dishonest or lazy?
Yes, according to internal audit reports there are about 100 ? or up to 150 ? employees who are not the ?pearls? of the organization, who do not improve its image, who do not fulfill their work tasks correctly or are related to misdeeds in one or another way.
Our aim is to purify the organization and keep only those people who want to provide more security with their actions rather than fulfill their personal ambitions.
According to the language test carried out by the inspection, only 52 out of the 244 Russian-speaking officers possess the required command of Estonian. How will you solve this situation?
We should approach these people personally and find out why they disobey the instructions. There may be very many reasons for that.
Certainly these tests are not easy. But it is clear that if they do not [fulfill] the requirements they will have to leave the organization.
If they have this approach toward the organization and the Republic of Estonia, and they feel that it is not important, they are wrong. Some might think that they will make it to retirement anyway, but they will not.
Only 41 percent of the people questioned in 2001 were satisfied with Tallinn?s police. Has the attitude changed lately?
The poll we carried through last autumn showed that the reliability of the Tallinn police had increased by 10 percent. It is definitely not a good image. On Saaremaa, for example, we managed to increase the reliability to 86 percent in four years.
By the way, you led Saaremaa?s police force before you started in Tallinn. Was there anything surprising as you took over the prefecture in Tallinn?
I imagined the situation because I had worked in Tallinn before. It was a little surprising how long information moved from headquarters to police officers, and how it could change in this long chain.
But it was very surprising as well for the staff to see the new chief making acquaintance with the situation on the street.
You are going to organize the work of 400 policemen in the new system in the western part of the country beginning in January of next year. How will you manage that?
The main principles would remain the same: that is, bringing the services of the police closer to the people and decentralize certain functions.
We are also thinking of giving more rights and responsibilities to the officers and sign similar management agreements with the departments to make it clear what is expected from [them].