The Education of Future Police Officers is an Important Step in the Fight Against Hate Crimes

Author: Hilma Unkić

Thanks to the cooperation of the Sarajevo Open Centre and the Police Academy of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the participants and students of this educational institution for the first time got the opportunity to systematically study the field of criminal acts committed by hatred.

Organized by the Police Academy, the one-month training organized enabled participants of the basic police training for the ranks of “younger inspectors” and “policemen” to gain new knowledge about criminal acts committed by hatred and to prepare for an adequate reaction to the commission of such acts in their future professional engagement. A total of 213 participants passed through several modules that consisted of important topics such as: stereotypes, hate crime vs. hate speech, processing of hate crimes and the influence of hate crimes.

As the Police Academy emphasizes this cooperation, it improves the quality of teaching and illuminates issues that are only partially addressed by the training programs envisaged.

“In addition to raising awareness of the importance of adequate response in hate crimes, students have gained practical knowledge that will enable them to respond adequately when dealing with these cases,” as it is stated from the Police Academy, adding that the participants’ reactions to the module were positive.

“The participants expressed their satisfaction with the realizable content and emphasize that the realization of this module enabled them to better understand this complex problem, but also helped them to clarify their own prejudices and understand the repercussions that their transposition into a social expression can have on a wider social community.”

The training dedicated to hate crimes was carried out within the framework of the curricula Criminal and Misdemeanor Law, Criminal Proceedings, Criminal and Police Affairs and Code of Conduct, and the module was delivered by Marija Lučić-Ćatić, a professor at the Faculty of Criminology and Security Studies and certified trainer for hate crimes. Lučić-Ćatić points out that the students responded well to the content of the module.

“In addition to the educational function, the concept itself was aimed at sensitizing participants in groups that share certain protected characteristics, which in our society are often neglected at the margin.”

For participants the most challenging topic was hate speech, and the distinction between speech and hate crimes, explains Professor Lučić-Ćatić.

“Taking into account the complexity of the legal construct of incitement to hatred as a form of deteriorated form of hate speech, its distinction from the commission of a criminal offense from hatred and the knowledge of the trainees themselves, we can point out that the distinction between hate speech and hate crime and determining whether a particular act offense, criminal offense of hatred or criminal act of incitement to hatred, has caused the greatest difficulty. ”

The Police Academy members state that besides raising the significance of the reaction in cases of hate crimes, it is important that the participants gain practical knowledge that will enable them to react adequately when they meet with these cases.

Since the police officers are the first who come to the crime scene and come into contact with the victims and witnesses, the way they react is crucial to the further treatment of the case, Lučić Ćatić explains.

“Police officers proper treatment in cases of hate crimes is of particular importance for the victim. There is a great tendency that this crime can escalate, and the entire community whose protected characteristics have been the subject of the attack. Furthermore, taking into account that precisely the police officers can decide that a particular offense is a violation rather than a criminal offense, it is necessary to understand very well the whole concept and the importance of adequate treatment in this area, “concluded Lučić Ćatić.

The text was created in scope of the project Protecting Affected Communities: Improving the implementation of hate crime regulation in Bosnia and Herzegovina“, implemented by Sarajevo Open Centre in cooperation with the OSCE Mission to BiH, and financially supported by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the OSCE in Vienna.