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STEPSS Follow-up project (2009-2011)

Translation is available for this content

Váltás magyarra

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s STEPSS (Strategies for Effective Police Stop and Search) project was aimed at assessing the practice of ID checks and monitor ethnic profiling while improving the relations of the police and the Roma minority through increasing the effectiveness and accountability of police powers to conduct identity checks and searches. The research based on a six-month period of data collection by police officers themselves concluded that Roma people are three times more likely to be stopped by police than non-Roma persons, while ID checks performed on the Roma are not more efficient. Thus, ethnic profiling by officers is an existing problem in Hungary that must be acknowledged and shall be addressed, along with the tensions between local police officers and members of the local community, especially members of the Roma minority.

In order to follow-up on the results of the STEPSS project, the HHC started its STEPSS Follow-up project, which is composed from the following project elements:

1. Local consultative meetings for police officers and members of the local community, especially members of the Roma minority

The aim of the project is to improve the relation of local police officers and community members by offering a new approach towards problem solving, thus by offering a framework for a structured conversation on the systemic discrepancies and the concerns and experiences of both groups, to combat bias, to encourage confidence and to build links between them and to develop a common understanding of issues of policing, law enforcement, crime and community safety locally.

The idea of consultative meetings is based on the concept of community policing, the basic principle of which is to develop links between the police and the citizens in order to contribute to the mutual understanding, confidence and cooperation. It shall be stressed that consultative meetings are not intended to serve as a forum for individual complaints in certain cases, but to ensure a less formalized channel for posing more general questions (e.g. Why is the number of ID checks so high? Why do investigations last so long? What are the duties of a police officer when proceeding in different cases? What kind of restrictive means may be used by police officers? What is the avenue of complaints?). Consultative meetings are designed for exchange of information, knowledge and experiences.

Ordinary citizens in Hungary do not have any reliable information on the work of the police, most of them getting in touch with the police only e.g. in the course of ID checks, which may lead to a dysfunctional picture on the police as a whole, creating fear and distrust, hindering also the effective police work. Local consultative forums are aimed at contributing to solve this problem.

In the first phase of the STEPSS Follow-up project (between June 2009 and March 2010) altogether four consultative committee meetings were held in the project period in two pilot sites: one in the 6th District of Budapest, and three in Szeged. In the 6th District of Budapest the meeting on 27 November 2009 was attended by fourteen NGOs and local civic organizations, the District’s MP and vice-mayor were also present. After listening to a short presentation about the local police’s activities, human resources and indicators and a description of the STEPSS project’s activities, the participants had the possibility to pose questions to the head of the police headquarters. Many of the participants expressed their support for holding regular meetings in the future, and the head of the police headquarters promised to organize a consultative meeting every third month. The event was covered by the local TV channel and newspaper, a summary is also available on the police’s website. In Szeged three meetings were held (3 December and 11 December 2009, 27 January 2010). Representatives of the local government, the elected MP and members of the local community and NGOs participated. These events were also covered by the local media.

The second phase of the STEPSS Follow-up project started in August 2010. The HHC has plans to organise at least 5 consultative meetings in 5 pilot sites until June 2011.

2. Establishing an expert group, and holding expert meetings (detailed analysis of the possible ways of police reform in areas concerning human rights issues)

Two expert meetings were held on ID checks on 12 June and on 12 December 2009. At the December meeting on ID checks, representatives of the HHC, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the Hungarian Police Headquarters agreed that the working group on ID checks will submit a proposal to the National Police Chief with the following points:

  • A new, unified ID check form needs to be introduced.
  • The new form needs to contain a warning about the possibility of filing a complaint against the measure.
  • A copy of the form, signed by the ID checked person and the officer taking the measure, needs to be handed over to the person subject to the measure.
  • Those personal data not necessary for the purposes of the measure shall be cleared from the forms.
  • The forms need to contain a detailed explanation for the reason of the measure and information about the result or outcome of the measure.

The proposal, including the recommendations, was submitted to the National Commander in February 2010.

3. Writing and compiling materials about discrimination to be included in the training materials of the Hungarian Police College and police secondary schools

The HHC contacted the Police Academy and the National Police Headquarters to discuss the practical aspects of including ethnic profiling and the STEPSS experience into the training of police officers. Based on the discussions, the HHC has prepared a study about the legal protection activities of NGOs in a constitutional state in general, and the STEPSS project in particular. The material was promised to be incorporated into the curriculum of secondary police education from September 2010. The HHC has also agreed with the Police Academy that lectures on the STEPSS project and other human rights issues relevant for the police will be held by HHC staff.

 

The STEPSS and the STEPSS Follow-up projects are funded by the Open Society Justice Initiative.

 

 

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee