The Czech police plan to establish new riot units in two of the country’s regional centres, Ústí nad Labem and Ostrava. They should help combat the growing threat of extremism which has seen a sharp rise over the last two years. At the same time, police units across the country face serious understaffing due to budget cuts.
A prosecutor in the northern city of Ostrava filed charges this week against four men accused of racially motivated attempted murder. The men face charges for throwing firebombs into a Roma family’s home in north Moravia last April, critically wounding a two-year-old girl, Natálka. The incident was a shocking example of a steep rise in extremism in the Czech Republic. According to police statistics, the number of extremist-related incidents rose by an alarming 650 percent in the last two years. To counter the trend, the police are planning to establish two new special riot police squads in north Bohemia and north Moravia, in addition to the existing units based in Prague and Brno. Jaroslav Ibehej is a spokesman for the police command.
“The aim is to have two special riot police units in Bohemia, that is in Prague and in Ústí, and two in Moravia: in the South Moravian and Moravian-Silesian regions. We also want to reinforce the policing of areas with high levels of disturbances and relieve police officers from regular units.”
North Bohemia and north Moravia are among the regions with the highest extremism-related crime. Both have large Roma communities as well as the highest unemployment rates in the country. In November 2008 extremists fought running battles with police after trying to attack a Roma ghetto in the north Bohemian town of Litvínov.
The new riot police units should be created this year – or next year at the latest. But the police are seriously understaffed, with a current shortage of 4,000 officers, or nearly 7 percent. And due to state budget cuts, the police cannot afford to fill the vacancies. Mr Ibehej again.
“Staff shortages affect all branches of the Czech police force. But combating extremism is one of the priorities of the police command for 2010. Besides riot police, it involves other branches of the police as well, such as criminal investigation. However, the fact that the police faces understaffing, partially caused by budget cuts, does not mean we are not doing as much as we can to make people safe.”
To prevent a further rise in extremism in the Czech Republic, the police also want to improve training and education, and make better use of its anti-conflict squads. But with the government trying to trim spending, it remains unclear when sufficient funds will be allocated to increase the number of officers.
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