Until April 1991, all security and police forces were responsible to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which also exercised authority over the judicial system and the implementation and enforcement of the country's laws. In January 1991, the minister of internal affairs, Simon Stefani, held both high communist party and government posts as a member of the Politburo and as one of three deputy prime ministers.
Each security or police organization--the Sigurimi, the Frontier Guards, and the People's Police--constituted a separate directorate within the ministry; each had a larger proportion of personnel who were party members than the armed forces because of the need for political reliability. In the Sigurimi, for example, nearly all serving personnel were believed to be party members. In the Frontier Guards and People's Police, all officers and many other personnel were party members.
The Sigurimi were the security police forces. Organized to protect the party and government system, these forces were responsible for suppressing deviation from communist ideology and for investigating serious crimes on a national scale. Frontier Guards, as their name implied, maintained the security of state borders. The People's Police were the local or municipal police.
In April 1991, shortly after the country's first free elections, the communist-dominated People's Assembly abolished the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It was replaced by a new Ministry of Public Order with authority over the People's Police. In addition, the chairman of a new National Security Committee within the Council of Ministers was given control over the Sigurimi. Both organizations, however, were headed by the same officials who had directed them within the old Ministry of Internal Affairs.
In July 1991, the communist-dominated legislature abolished the Sigurimi and established a new National Information Service (NIS) in its place. It was unclear to Western observers to what extent the new organization would be different from its muchhated predecessor because at least some of its personnel probably had served in the Sigurimi. Only former Sigurimi leaders were excluded from the new NIS. Opponents of the Sigurimi argued that former officers should not be rehired but replaced with new, untainted government employees. The officers, however, argued that the new organization needed experienced investigators who had not violated existing laws or abused their power as Sigurimi officers.
The NIS's stated mission was to enforce the constitution and laws of Albania and the civil rights of its citizens. It was forbidden to conduct unauthorized investigations, and it was required to respect the rights of citizens in every case except instances in which the constitution itself had been violated. Political activities within the NIS were banned.
In 1991 the rate of reported homicides doubled and robberies tripled over the similar period in 1990. Instances of illegal possession and use of firearms were reported. The increase in violent crime was viewed so seriously that some citizens believed that social anarchy was overwhelming the state's ability to handle it. The end of the party's monopoly on political power and the curbing of the coercive power of the state's law enforcement mechanism gave many common criminals courage to act. The minister of public order cited a general breakdown in law enforcement and public safety in Albania in 1991. He reported that many crimes were being committed by unemployed individuals, common criminals inadvertently released from prison under political amnesties, and citizens taking revenge on officials of the former communist regime. He blamed many problems of the police on their former cooperation with the Sigurimi in its role of protecting the party and state against the citizens. According to the minister, the police would be depoliticized, and patriotic, legal, and professional training would replace their former political indoctrination.
When the People's Assembly established the Ministry of Public Order, it placed the Frontier Guards and the Directorate of Prison Administration, both of which had been in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in the Ministry of People's Defense and the Ministry Justice, respectively. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to stem the flow of Albanian refugees and growing problems with drug trafficking through Albanian territory, Italy signed a cooperation agreement with Albania under which it would help train and equip the demoralized police and Frontier Guards. Albania sought similar assistance from Finland and Romania and applied to join the International Police Organization (Interpol). The head of the Directorate of Prison Administration pledged to improve physical conditions in Albania's prisons, to terminate routine detention of minors with adults, and to introduce corrective, educational, and recreational programs.
The Directorate of Law and Order, the Directorate of Criminal Police, and the Directorate of Forces for the Restoration of Order--the latter presumably being special riot control units-- remained under the control of the Ministry of Public Order. In defense of his decision not to reorganize, the minister of public order cited difficulties in attempting to restructure the police force when crime was increasing rapidly. He also noted that planned cutbacks would reduce police personnel by 30 percent. Many Albanians, however, blamed years of communist dictatorship and poverty for allowing economic conditions to deteriorate to the point where the system collapsed in a crime wave and local disorder. Some citizens believed that they needed the right to carry arms as protection against increasing violent crime and social anarchy.
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