Two officers step down amid bribery scandal

  • 2005-10-05
  • By Liivi Sandy
TALLINN - The police department has found itself knee-deep in scandal after some 20 officers were placed under criminal investigation for pocketing bribes.

Following a probe that exposed 20 police officers, two high-ranking officials have tendered their resignation: the traffic police chief of Tallinn and a regional police chief, both of whom were caught accepting bribes from drivers.

Police chief Raivo Aeg will announce his decision on the resignation of North Prefecture traffic police chief Aivar Toompere and West-Harju chief Tarmo Vaher in the near future, a department spokesperson said.

"The Estonian police department does not tolerate this kind of behavior and will take measures against it," said Tallinn department spokeswoman Jana Zdanovits, adding that this case proved that Estonia's internal control division operates well. "We put in a lot of effort to clean the department of dishonest officers."

The investigation, which began at the end of February, reached a critical point last week when investigators determined that the officers under surveillance could no longer represent the police force.

In all, the probe established 18 criminal violations.

Most of the accused had accepted bribes in return for waiving misdemeanor traffic violations, a practice common throughout the Baltic states.

These results have motivated the Police Control Division to introduce new measures against bribery. A refined code of conduct and code of ethics are in the development process, and an internal investigation body has installed electronic monitoring devices in a number of police vehicles.

"In the framework of the e-police project, special technical facilities have been installed into police vehicles to monitor and fixate an officer's location and activities," Zdanovits explained.

The department has also created a task force to evaluate the organization and its control systems, as well as test the effectiveness of supervisory control procedures. The Next Management Group of Estonian Police has been given the task of discussing the department's main problems and developing a resolution for future conduct.

The investigation marks the second time this year that the police department has fallen into disrepute. Earlier this summer, the chief of police, Robert Antropov, was heavily criticized for using a department vehicle for personal use, prompting the launch of a disciplinary investigation. After much back-and-fourth over the chief's tendered resignation, Antropov finally stepped down at the behest of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.

Not only was Antropov caught lying about details in the case, but the chief was accused of "injuring the department's public reputation" by chauffeuring his parents around Sarema Island in the police division's BMW X5 all-terrain vehicle.

Most of the officers accused in last week's investigation have admitted guilt. The Prosecutor's Office will take the cases to court before the end of the year. All police officers so far suspected of committing bribery have resigned.