RIGA - Complaints of police apathy have skyrocketed after the government failed to raise police wages in response to widespread protests last September.
"They're simply lazy. For example if someone reports that a purse was stolen, they mark it down as 'lost' so as to keep them from having to do anything," said Peteris Sutko of the Latvian University Law School.
Ordinary citizens feel it as well. Juris, a retiree, told The Baltic Times that "it gets worse every month. I don't think anyone trusts the police any more, believe it or not, it wasn't always like this."
The Latvian United Trade Union of Policemen, which led two protests in late September and early October, had planned to hold another protest at the end of October. The union called off the protest, however, due to a lack of interest. Union Chairman Agris Suna told reporters that the trade union would not "drop the gun" and step back from their duties.
During the strike, Andrejs, a policeman of 15 years, said that the protest would do no good.
"They'd show it on TV, they'll write about it in the papers, but it won't do anything. I don't believe the salaries will be raised," he said.
Mareks Seglins has said that the negotiations between the government and the police unions over a wage increase for 2009 were just giving people false hopes.
"I do not understand why people are being fooled and why they are given such false hopes. When this door [of the Cabinet of Ministers] is closed, all the talk is about layoffs [of police, doctors, teachers]," the minister said.
The minister went on to explain that there are more important talks than the issue of wage increases. The idea that many policemen may be fired is of more concern than increasing wages.
"The war, the struggle, is to avoid the sacking of policemen. There is no question about any wage increases. The question is about how many people will have to be fired," Seglins said.
"In my opinion, nobody is talking about any pay rises in this country -- this story was over about a month ago. The question is about reducing the layoffs of policemen, firefighters and border guards to the minimum with the existing financing for the Interior Ministry," he said.
It would appear the problem is bilateral 's the police are lazy because they are underpaid and the government is angry with the police because they are not fulfilling their duties.
The problem with policemen isn't limited to overall dissatisfaction. In September, LNT news reported that a woman, after sending in a complaint about lazy police, had received a letter from police in Daugavpils saying "If you write me again swine, I'll take your head off."
The woman then demanded an explanation from the Prosecutors Office and from the head of the police department from which the letter was sent.
Upon further investigation, the Prosecutors Office found a few more examples of improper communication stemming from the police office. When pressed for explanation, the policemen said that the communications were just jokes from policemen who had access to the investigators computer. They claimed not to realize that the letters would actually be sent.
On Oct. 26, there were also complaints in Jelgava that police were not coming to the aid of a woman whose house was being broken into. However, according to policemen, this sort of thing is unfortunately common.
Policeman Andrejs said that this may be as a sort of protest against the lack of wage increases.
"Most policemen on the force are from the Police Academy, which is good, but it is like they are mass produced. They want to have the honor of being a policeman but none of the work," he said.
Andrejs also explained the instances where people have called the emergency services and were told to call back if the situation worsens. "This makes me angry, but sometimes it is necessary when we have so few policemen 's we cannot go to every scene."