Kosovo's police service comes of age
When the curtains were pulled back at an opening ceremony in Vushtri/Vucitrn on 13 March, they revealed a shiny new plaque with the words "Steve Bennett Multimedia Learning and Resource Centre".
"Here in Kosovo, we rarely name institutions after people who are still alive, but this is an exception," said General Major Behar Selimi from the Kosovo Police Service.
There ceremony was an opportunity to thank the OSCE Mission in Kosovo for its assistance over the years, and specifically Steve Bennett, who was the Mission's Director for Police Education and Development from its opening in 1999 until February 2007. It was hosted by the Kosovo Centre for Public Safety Education and Development (KCPSED), formerly the Kosovo Police Service School (KPSS).
According to Douglass Madden, Acting Director of the Mission's Security and Public Safety Department, one of the OSCE Mission's initial tasks was to train a new police force that would help create a safer environment in Kosovo after the NATO military intervention. Bennett was one of the first people to set foot on the grounds of the former Yugoslav Police Academy and begin its revival as the former KPSS.
"That first day, Steve said that roses would grow here," said Bennett's friend and colleague, Rin Shadforth, a training consultant. "I said that nothing would ever grow here. But now, there are 1,400 rose bushes on the school grounds," - roses that symbolize the progress Kosovo's police service has made.
Collaboration is key
"Although my name is on the plaque, all of your names should be there, too," Bennett told his colleagues from the OSCE, the KCPSED, the police service, the provisional Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Vushtri/Vucitrn municipality, emphasizing that everything accomplished was the result of a team effort.
The new multimedia learning and resource centre is also a product of collaboration. KCPSED Director Lulzim Fushtica explained that the KCPSED will work with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Turkish International Academy against Drugs and Organized Crime to develop the new resource centre's capacity.
"This co-operation, established with OSCE assistance, will provide training software and hardware, and bring the centre up to an operational level," he said. It will include a library, a computer training lab for on-site and distance learning programmes, as well as a lecture hall.
Taking the wheel
At the beginning of 2006, the KPSS was renamed the KCPSED when its training responsibilities were extended to cover other public safety institutions, such as those that handle customs, corrections and emergency services.
Under Bennett's leadership, the OSCE ran the school until the end of 2006. In January of this year, management of the KCPSED was transferred to Kosovo's provisional authorities.
"As a result of joint efforts, the Kosovo Police Service has become a modern, multi-ethnic and democratic institution that enjoys the public's trust," said General Major Selimi. Ethnic Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks and Turks serve side by side, with female officers making up fifteen per cent of the force.
The police service now has nearly 7,300 officers, all of whom have completed the school's basic police training course. One seventh of them went on to attend advanced training courses and now hold positions ranging from sergeant to colonel.
"The Mission will continue to provide advanced and specialized training support and advice on the KCPSED's development," said Douglass Madden.