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Europe

Policing Kosovo

Being a police officer is never easy. But for Stefan Feller, the new UN Police Commissioner in Kosovo, the daily task of arresting criminals is made twice as difficult.

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Calling in for back-up

A cop’s life is hard. You work long hours, weekends, holidays; and you put your life in danger. You’re responsible for upholding the law, arresting criminals, protecting the innocent and setting a good example. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

For Stefan Feller, the job just got even tougher. The 43-year old German police chief from Düsseldorf has been appointed United Nations Police Commissioner in Kosovo. Starting this month he will be in charge of some 4,500 police men and women from 52 different countries, who have all been sent to help maintain the peace in the break-away Serbian province.

For the next year, Feller will have the two-fold responsibility of providing temporary law enforcement in Kosovo and establishing a professional, impartial and independent local police force. It’s a daunting task, but one which Feller willing accepts.

"I am honored and proud to be named UN police chief in Kosovo," he said at his acceptance ceremony last month.

Off the ordinary beat

Since the 1999 bombing campaign by Nato troops, Kosovo has been named an international protectorate. The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is responsible for all political, economic and judicial aspects of the region, including the civilian police force.

When UN peace keepers moved in three years ago, the country was in a state of anarchy. Now police road checks are an everyday occurrence. People, who had gotten used to a lawless society where fear and violence dominated, are gradually learning to play by the rules.

The number of weapons has decreased and the murder rate has fallen drastically. The police force has also made significant inroads in the battle against organized crime.

"We’re doing a worthwhile job," Feller said of his fellow police officers in Kosovo. "We came here in 1999 and 2000 to put a stop to the inhumanity, the killing and the way people were being driven out of their homes. We wanted to help restore peace".

There’s still a long way to go, though, and Feller is realistic enough to see what lies ahead. But the challenge is to make improvements every step of the way and not to give up.

"If you start something you have to see it through," Feller says, "otherwise, to quote a French member of the UN mission in Kosovo, it’s like shutting down a plane’s engines just after it’s taken off."

Hard work, long hours

Feller knows he cannot expect any overnight successes. Nothing can happen without the will of the people. The UN police force is not in Kosovo to repress the people. They are there to work alongside the population and help set up a democratic society with its own law enforcement agency.

In other words, Feller told DW-TV, "a society like the one in Kosovo develops by setting up its own administrative structures, its own political structures and rebuilding its own economy. It is a society which is itself making a contribution to dealing with its crime on its own."

As for Feller, after a year patrolling the streets of Kosovo with all its political instabilities and growing pains, his ordinary job in Düsseldorf will probably seem like a vacation.

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