TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian government is considering expanding police powers after a former convict killed a policeman and evaded capture.
It is not known in what way the powers of the police might be increased.
The Saakashvili regime started increasing the powers of the police a few years ago, but the initiative met with increasing pressure from the opposition and was perceived as a way for the government to cling to power.
This perception was further strengthened by the fact that it was not in the initial police reform that police powers were increased, but a few years later, when the government declared a ‘zero tolerance’ policy toward crime.
Politicians within Georgian Dream, a newly formed coalition which is in government, criticized its predecessor for this initiative, but didn’t change anything after coming into power. What differs is mainly that police don’t have the same level of support from the top as they had during Saakashvili.
This means also that police don’t have as much influence as before, which was also seen in an opinion poll published in March. According to the International Republican Institute (IRI) poll, the level of trust in the police is 65 percent, while only months ago it was 82 percent.
Deputy Interior Minister Levan Izoria was the first to announce that the government is drafting a bill to increase police powers.
Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani also says that the strategy to fight crime must be revised, but not in the way that Georgia is going back to the culture of ‘zero tolerance.’
Free Democrats, the party that withdrew from the ruling coalition five months ago and has taken on an opposition role, speak of strengthening law enforcement bodies.
The National Movement, Saakashvili’s party, accuses the government of encouraging the mafia world and discrediting the police. They demand that the government changes its attitude towards law enforcement bodies.
Ultimately, no-one knows what Georgia’s new approach to policing will be, but people in the government say that this issue is a priority and they will start working on it soon.