Th, 1.06.2023
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Editorial: Jaws

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Photo: Urmas Luik / Pärnu Postimees

Is Estonian police turning dogs on peaceful citizens, cruelly beating alternative-culture-loving concert-goers and opponents of the government, having basically pulled out all the stops? Or is it, rather, that the Estonian police can’t guarantee the basic order, is letting crooks throw their weight around and retreating before all who have the guts to curse them waiving fists and what not? 

Which of the two versions, do you think, fits best to describe the situation today? Having to choose between the extremes, which would you prefer, while imagining yourself in roles of policemen, and then of the rioting fellow citizen?

If, when mentally trying to answer, you saw there’s quite some space between the two ditches – for acceptable behaviour – you’re on the right path. A few years ago, the entire Estonia heard of an incident in Viljandi where the police, due to thinness of ranks and faulty actions (in hindsight) proved helpless to overcome a gang of troublemakers partying and rioting in a residential area.

The police was being whipped till extra forces arrived from Tartu. The message being: at least in initial phase, the police was unable to ensure security of citizens. What shocked the public most was that the policemen, called and trained for our protection, were pitifully beaten by crooks with considerable criminal records. 

The other extreme would be to claim that police violence is always justified. As told to, yesterday, by security businessman and politician Jaanus Rahumägi: «Police will never intervene without a reason. Accordingly, the security man was not using tear gas just for fun, like a deodorant. It had to have been preceded by an aggressive event.» Probably, Mr Rahumägi was mainly thinking about the definite case and the current Estonian situation. Even so, taken literally, this would be giving free licence to anything police and security guys might do. Who would trouble the righteous? Alas, history is rife with power gone overboard and troubling whoever it is expedient to trouble.

In the case at hand, police have launched an internal audit. Should this be or seem partial, Estonia obviously is a state based on the rule of law and, having been bitten by a dog, anybody may have recourse to the courts where, in an adversarial procedure, independent judges will weigh all vital evidence. And that’s the way it has to be. 

In cases like this, the public eye is also of importance and vital indeed if borders are crossed this way or that way as endangering the society.

After the week-long public treatment, the Patarei Case is not painting a picture of Estonia being a bad land or that our people are endangered. Tactically, the police obviously emerged the winner – and that counts. The stand of restless citizens will be considered in internal audit and, should they so desire, in courts – and that counts even more.

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