RIGA - In a bold and unexpected move, the recently appointed interior minister, Mareks Seglins, has slammed Latvian investigators for the dismally low closure rate on serious crimes.
"The figure [of solved crimes] 's 30 percent 's cannot satisfy me as a minister," Seglins told journalists following a meeting of the Baltic state's crime prevention council.
The harsh assessment came right after two high-profile murders in Latvia's business community.
In an ironic twist, mere hours after the minister spoke it was reported that the police had arrested the wrong man in connection with the murder of prominent businesswomen Ella Ivanova.
Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis urged the police to pick up their investigative work and improve co-ordination with other institutions and the public.
"All institutions must step up investigative work and share the latest information," he said.
Seglins initially proposed raising police wages to motivate officers to work harder, saying he would make the wage hike one of his top priorities.
"The work of criminal police is unpleasant and dirty. I want smart police to work in the criminal police. They have to be paid moreâ€¦ a pay increase is my priority," the minister said.
He called on the crime prevention council to re-examine programs and agree upon a hard figure concerning how much funding would be necessary to remedy the situation.
The following day, however, Seglins admitted that it would take more than a simple pay raise to improve police performance. He said the Criminal Police chief and the National Police chief both make more than 2,000 lats (2,800 euros) already, and the police bought 500 new vehicles last year.
"Not everything can be excused by money," he said. "Often, the organization of the work and our attitude towards our work duties are to be blamed."
State Police chief Aldis Lieljuksis told journalists that despite recent comments from the interior minister and Prosecutor General's Office, there is currently no crisis in the police force.
"It's a kind of a post-crisis situation, as there are symptoms suggesting that the crisis of 2006 has been overcome, but the ice is very, very thin," he said.
The minister said there are no plans to replace Criminal Police chief Ints Kuzis. Though some local press has reported that the current situation is reminiscent of the '90s 's when contract killings were a more common practice 's Seglins debunked those speculations, arguing that the current situation is two to three times better than it was then.