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Marina Caparini and Otwin Marenin (Eds), Transforming Police in Central and Eastern Europe – Process and Progress, DCAF – Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces/ LIT, 2004.

Gorazd Meško and Branko Lobnikar

Index terms

Keywords :

Policing, Police, Democracy
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1The book is divided in two parts: the introduction and conclusion (by Marina Caparini and Otwin Marenin) and several case studies of individual police organizations in Central and Eastern Europe. In the introduction, Caparini and Marenin emphasise the importance of the police in a democratic society. The main function of the police – the provision of security – is one of the basic demands laid against the state by its society. Democratic policing is described in the first part of the introduction, analyzing in details the notions of legitimacy, professionalism and accountability, as the main parts of democratic policing. Caparini and Marenin emphasize that even a professional and accountable police force will not become legitimized if it fails in its major functions of maintaining order, neutral enforcement of laws, provision of security and protection of people and property without discrimination or bias. The main question in this book is how to implement democratic policing or what is the situation with democratic policing in the transitional countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where policing served (and still serves) the needs of the state and  the ruling group, and was heavily politicised and militarized in orientation, structure and equipment.

2The country chapters examine how reforms have been implemented over the last 14 years since the dissolution of the socialist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The question is “what has really changed in these systems of policing ?”. The basic goal of the contributions is to assess (to a certain extent) the police reforms in the studied countries, - what has been done and what remains to be achieved in order to make policing system more democratic and effective. Each of the scholars from Central and Eastern Europe tries to describe the situation in his country. They focus on several topics. The first is the description of reforms and changes in police organization since 1989 in five areas (goals, legal status and powers of police, organizational structures and policies, operational policies and work patterns, and supervision and accountability mechanisms). Secondly, the contributors were asked to assess and evaluate the implementation and success of reforms in the areas of democratization, legitimization, and to determine what problems and obstacles still exist to further reforms. In this part, the question raised is also the integration of reforms in state – society relations. The last general question is “what insights for theory and policy do the descriptions and evaluations of police reforms suggest ?”

3The book seems to be comprehensive and fits also into bridging the gap of contemporary knowledge on policing, especially in this area of Europe, where we are facing largely a one-way street from West to East. The approach could lead to modifications of existing views on what works in reforming the police, converting a one-way street into a circle of mutual learning, a reciprocal flow of information, a feedback loop in which all those who study and practice policing participate and share information and advice.

4The main part of the book consists of the case studies of 14 Central and Eastern European countries, grouped in four chapters: Central Europe (The Czech Republic, former GDR, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia), South-eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Romania), Western Balkans (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia), and Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine). The majority of the contributors are prominent scholars from the country they write about, except for Eastern Europe, where authors have significant experience with policing in Russia and Ukraine.

5Upon the analysis, presented for each included country, Marina Caparini and Otwin Marenin in the last chapter conclude that the reforms of police organizations in Central and Eastern Europe have not produced the expected results; much remains to be done and what remains is probably the most difficult aspect of reforms. The conclusion is that reforms at the surface matter but they are only the beginning of a progress. The authors emphasize that only changes in structural conditions which surround and determine the nature and work of the police as well as changes in the habits of the police during their interactions with the public will constitute a progress towards a democratic form.

6There is a general consensus among the authors that police reforms in Central and Eastern Europe include learning the language of democracy. It requires more time to start implementing goals, facilitate values, implement good practices and use the appropriate models into sustainable police progress.

7In the conclusion, Marina Caparini and Otwin Marenin, state that one of the real gaps in these chapters is the minor absence of the voice of street level police officers – (what they think about reform matters), for they will have to implement reforms, convert the rhetoric into practice. Police officers’ views would add a significant piece of information which goes beyond a rhetoric of democratic policing.

8Although more research is needed on policing in this rapidly changing area of Europe, we can say that the book Transforming Police in Central and Eastern Europe – Process and Progress provides a valuable overview of the status of police reforms throughout Central and Eastern Europe and is adding significant information to the general knowledge about policing in a part of the world that used to be tabula rasa for scholars and police practitioners in the last decades, especially for those who belong to a prevailing English-speaking criminological community.

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Bibliographical reference

Marina Caparini and Otwin Marenin (Eds), Transforming Police in Central and Eastern Europe – Process and Progress,  DCAF – Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces/ LIT, 2004.

Electronic reference

Gorazd Meško and Branko Lobnikar, « Marina Caparini and Otwin Marenin (Eds), Transforming Police in Central and Eastern Europe – Process and Progress, DCAF – Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces/ LIT, 2004. », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 4/5 | 2006, Online since 27 November 2006, connection on 23 July 2018. URL :

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About the authors

Gorazd Meško

Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia

Branko Lobnikar

Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This text is under a Creative Commons license : Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

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