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The 85th Anniversary of Establishing the Police

The first signs of roles related to the police force can be traced back to the earliest times, to such offices as: the minter (acting as Treasury police officer), the komes (a constable; Prince's official whose responsibilities included maintaining public peace), the justiciary (a judicial and police officer), and the hutmen (marketplace police and town public order officer). Later, as the levels of petty crime in towns increased, town guards were estab-lished. During the reign of Stanisław August Poniatowski, Poland attempted to introduce extensive social reforms which included a reform of the police. In 1775, the Permanent Council created the Police Department. During the Four-Year Parliament session in 1791, the Police Commission was established. The Commission had jurisdiction over matters of criminal police, public morality, public order, and sanitary conditions. After Poland lost its independence in subsequent partitions, the aggressors introduced their own laws, customs, institutions and officers in the annexed areas. During uprisings aimed at regaining independence, the insurgence authorities established militia troops as a continuation of the common mobilization tradition, as well as the National Guard, the Municipal Guard, the Security Guard, and even the Police Department in the National Government of 1864.1914 marks the historical beginning of the native police force with specific professional competence. In the process of shaping of these institutions despite their subordination to the invaders, the numbers of skilled police personnel increased. In 1914-1919 such organizations in Poland included: citizens' guards, town guards, national guards, municipal, people's and citizens' militias, and the Communal Police.

When Poland regained independence, the authorities decided to create a national police force. At first, the act draft envisioned that a new formation called the "Security Guard" should be created. Finally, the Polish Parliament passed the act on the State Police Service on July 24,1919. The State Police created under the act was to be a state organization whose main role was to maintain security, peace and public order. During this period of fights, plebiscites, and insurrections not only the boundaries of the Republic of Poland were shaped, but also the scope of operations and the structure of the State Police. By 1922, a total of sixteen province headquarters and the General Headquarters of the Silesia Province were established. The State Police was led by a Chief Commander, reporting to the Minister of Internal Affairs. There were provincial headquarters in individual provinces. Below them, on the organizational scale, there were district headquarters or headquartes located in provincial capitals, as well as individual police stations.

In 1939, after the war with the Nazi Germany started and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, police officers in border areas not only ensured order, but often put up the fight against the aggressors. Many died; some managed to evacuate abroad. Around 12,000 police officers were captured by the Soviets. The majority of them was sent to NKWD's (the Soviet Secret Service) concentration camps and prisons and never returned. In the spring of 1940, more than 6,000 policemen were murdered in Twer (formerly Kalinin) and buried in mass graves in Miednoje.

In the areas occupied by the Third Reich, local police force was called up for service. By the order of SS and Police Chief Commander of October 30, 1939, all State Police officers in the General Governorship were called into service under the penalty of death for the evading policemen. On December 17, 1939 a Polish Police organization (the so-called navy-blue police) was formally established. The organization was supposed to support the German police division that maintained public order. Polish Police's standing responsibilities included: preventive patrols and interventions, supervision over sanitary conditions, the management of vehicle traffic, railway station service, and the supervision over passive anti-aircraft defence and training of the Jewish Order Service which served internally in ghettos. The navy-blue police had also known relationships to all major military and political organizations in Poland and in exile. The formation was dissolved when the Nazi army started to withdraw from Poland. In addition to that, there were underground organizations during the occupation of Poland that were aimed at maintaining order: the National Security Corps and the Police Section of the Security and Counter-Intelligence Department of the 2nd Division of the National Army (AK) Headquarters. The National Security Corps revealed itself during the Warsaw uprising and took over the Polish Police's precincts.

In the second half of 1944, when Poland was still in war and Europe was soon to be divided by the iron curtain, the Citizens' Militia (Milicja Obywatelska) was established. Formally, the Citizens' Militia (MO) was established on October 7,1944 by the decree of the Polish Committee for National Liberation, as the organization responsible for maintaining security, peace and public order, and for prosecuting and investigating offences and crimes. The Militia was a legal and public formation of the Ministry of Public Security. Its initial independence, demonstrated by the fact that militia commanders had positions equal to chief officers of the Public Security Office, didn't last long. The Ministry of Public Security issued an order that abolished the militia's independence from the security machine. Militia commanders at the province and district level were appointed deputy chiefs of the public security office, militia division. On December 7,1954 the Ministry of Public Security was dissolved and two other organizations were created: the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Council of Ministers' Public Security Committee. Subsequent organizational solutions introduced after 1956 remained mostly unchanged until 1990. Only the act on two tier structure of the local government and administration that came into force in June 1975 resulted in closing district militia headquarters; they were replaced with regional headquarters. In addition, in 1983, after the act on the office of the Minister for Internal Affairs was passed, the existing provincial and regional militia headquarters were renamed provincial and regional internal affairs offices. An external manifestation of the complete departure from the traditions of the ante-bellum State Police was the change of the organization's name, uniforms and rank names. The Citizens' Militia was dissolved after the political regime changed.

On April 6,1990 the Parliament of the Republic of Poland passed an act that established a new formation — the Police Force. In its operation principles, the Police Force draws from the traditions of the period between the first and the second World War. The name of the organization, and the titles of ranks and positions have also been restored. What's more important, the Police Force continues the philosophy of action that involves the cooperation with the society and avoidance of political ties both in the case of the organization, and individual officers. The solutions that the Act on the Police Force introduced into the Polish legal system correspond to the requirements of international law regulations and standards. Since 1990, the Police Force has once again become a full member of the Interpol international organization of crime police forces. It is worth noting that between the first and the second World War, the State Police was a full member of the International Criminal Police Commission. Poland was one of 20 founder countries that established this organization in 1923 in Vienna, giving foundation to today's Interpol, which was formally created after the Second World War. In addition, our Police influenced significantly the operation of this organization. The Chief inspector Leon Nagler, Ph.D., an officer of the General Headquarters of the Polish State Police, was appointed vice-president of the International Criminal Police Commission. Since 2001, Poland has been also cooperating with the European Police Bureau — Europol.

The Police Force consists of three primary types of services: the criminal service, the preventive service, and the support service related to organization, logistics and technical matters. All policemen are accountable to the Chief Commander of the General Police Headquarters, which is a central government body. At the moment, the General Police Headquarters supervises 16 provincial headquarters and the Capital City Police Headquarters. Below them in the organizational structure, there are district police headquarters (municipal and regional), police precincts, police stations, and police schools.

In turn with the democratic changes in the society, the Police Force is no longer a fully independent formation that is accountable only to the General Police Headquarters. Now, it is a part of the so-called local government complex at the province and district level. Local governments evaluate the performance of the Police units in a given area. The work of individual policemen is evaluated by his or her supervisors. The changes in the Police Force Act result in the change of the entire formation, its organization, strategy, and direction. Police reforms are aimed at developing a formation committed to carrying out its statutory responsibilities as well as possible. The challenge for the 21st century is to change the mentality of police officers, and to reinforce the belief that the principal goal of the Police Force operation is a professional service that meets the expectations of citizens and local communities. The Police Force is supposed to become a more and more important element of the citizens' society, and an organization that is efficient, modern, open to community's evaluation, and able to prevent and fight crime. Improving the ability to respond to crisis situation is also a challenge to the Police Force. Such response includes fighting organized crime, cross-border crime, illegal drug traffic, and most importantly, terrorist threats.

Several years ago, to prevent crime the Police Force has launched prevention and education programs. The Police Force's strategy in extended prevention involves a comprehensive approach to individual age and profession groups to reduce crime and ensure the safety of the most exposed groups. Programs were introduced to increase safety in towns (Bezpieczne Miasto — Safe City, Bezpieczna Gmina — Safe Commune), to prevent juvenile delinquency (proactive activities related to drug addiction), and other proactive initiatives to increase the safety in public transport or in extraordinary situations. In belief that not only the Police Force operations stimulate the crime reduction, it was deemed necessary to combine these initiatives with the operation of local institutions, organizations and communities.

Grzegorz Gryz, MA
General Police Headguarters