Paying law enforcement officers in cases outside of fines is usually unacceptable in the civilized world. Things are different in Ventspils, it seems. Municipal police there received thousands of euros from private companies. In documents it is stated that the money is paid for crime prevention in territories owned by those companies.
By accepting money from private persons, police officers breach the Law on Police. The law states that police are only allowed to receive money from the municipality. Ventspils City Council explains that this tradition remains from the 90s, as reported by Nekā personīga programme of TV3.
Ventspils is one of seventy seven municipalities that have their own police force. The law is enforced there by 60 men and women in uniform. Police force there is well-equipped as well. Every year the police are paid around EUR 1.8 million. In addition, police in Ventspils also receive hundreds of thousands of euros from Ventspils businesses for protecting their private territories. Ventspils police has contracts signed with eleven businesses.
Contracts state that the police are to prevent crimes on territories owned by those companies. However, police have to do that anyway – the law demands that the police combat crimes no matter where they are attempted. With that, it is unclear what the money from private businesses is paid for. For example, Ventspils police receives EUR 8,000 a year from Baltijas Ekspresis, EUR 10,000 from Ventpils Trade Port and EUR 40,000 from Ventbunkers.
Ventspils police has 11 such contracts. The number of payers used to be bigger, but many have either closed shop or have stopped paying. No one forced those companies into paying the police – they do it voluntarily. «I think it is an old cooperation. It dates back to the early years of municipal police. I doubt there were any private security firms back then. It was a time of extortion. I still remember it. This cooperation with the police remains to this day. The details, however, police resolve them on their own,» – says Aivars Lembergs.
Up until now, businesses have been paying the police regardless of whether or not they support Lembergs. «Contract is established for 12 months. This has been in place for more than a decade. We’ve had contracts with municipal police for a dozen years. I cannot say the exact amount, but it does reach EUR 40,000 a year,» – comments Ventbunkers board member Edgars Ceporjus.
Ventbunkers is one of the largest port companies in Latvia. The company has its own security service, which watches over 43 ha territory 24 hours a day. «We have concluded that Ventbunkers had never really benefited from such a service by municipal police. It is another case entirely that we have believed for a long time that it was hard for municipal institutions to allocate funds to ensure the security of our city. So we decided to help in such a way,» – explains the company’s representative.
The company has decided not to pay next year. This is because the company’s management is dissatisfied with the way municipal police spend that money. Two limousines have been bought using the money provided by businesses. Instead of using those vehicles to enforce order, police uses them to carry around city council officials. «What about that limousine? It is a good car. If you have to travel to Riga every day, you need a good car. It is a tool for work,» – Lemberts says.
Experts interviewed by Nekā personīga believe police have not acted legally, as the Law on Police states that municipal police is financed and provided with equipment using the municipal budget.
Former judge of the Constitution Court of Latvia Gunars Kutris recalled the experience of State Police, when under pressure from State Audit and security firms it was forced to abandon the field of security services in 2011. Participation in such a business goes against the State Administration Structure Law. «If municipal police perform protection of public order in public territory, they ensure safety and order for the populace. They should not be allowed to receive payment for that. If they provide some service to businessmen within closed commercial territory, there has to be some emergency situation for that. Otherwise it is considered normal duties for the police,» – explains Kutris.