Bulgaria announces new steps to cut corruption at police roadside checks

Only traffic police – and none of Bulgaria’s other varieties of police – will be allowed to carry out roadside checks of motorists, and their patrol cars will be fitted with video cameras and microphones to record what passes between them and drivers.

The idea is that what passes between them and drivers should not be cash.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov announced these and other steps on November 25, a few days after a cabinet discussion prompted by recent headlines and online outrage about a Sofia traffic police officer being filmed accepting a 20 leva (about 10 euro) bribe.

Over the next month, all Interior Ministry cars will be equipped with GPS systems to keep track of where they are, and over the next three months, cameras and audio recording systems will be fitted in 450 traffic police cars.

Only traffic police would be empowered to carry out roadside checks, and the checkpoints should be announced in advance by signposts.

Vuchkov said that motorists should not that it was only the traffic police who wore white-topped caps. Traffic police had badges and photographic identity cards with their names and identification numbers, wore jackets with reflective edging and had distinctive insignia. He added that when temperatures were low, traffic police were allowed to wear black knit caps, with the inscription “traffic police”.

He said that the new measures were expected to cut corruption by 80 per cent while not negatively affecting the effectiveness of traffic control.

The measures were intended to reduce direct contact between police and motorists, thus reducing the likelihood of incidents of corruption.

The “security police” division would be barred from carrying out roadside checks but would be involved when there were special police operations, according to Vuchkov.

The security police would be able to check the luggage in a vehicle, verify the identity of the driver, but not to issue fines for traffic offences.

All checks on passenger cars will have to be reported by the police officers on duty in the relevant district police departments, with an explanation why the check was carried out.

Vuchkov said that checks for speeding would be done in two ways – with stationary cameras with electronic tickets or through mobile cameras.

“The driver will not be stopped on the road but will be summoned following the procedure to get the administrative statement at the regional police directorate. The electronic tickets will not be automatically sent but the offender will have to appear before the police,” Vuchkov said.

However, Bulgaria’s courts some time ago ruled that the use of mobile cameras to check for speeding was illegal. Vuchkov said that amendments to the Road Traffic Act would be tabled in Parliament to deal with this issue.

(Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/flickr.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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