Fr, 2.12.2022

Conflict over the new head of police: Läänemets prefers Kommusaar, Kallas Belichev

Mikk Salu
, ajakirjanik
Conflict over the new head of police: Läänemets prefers Kommusaar, Kallas Belichev
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If the disclosure of the candidate for the director general of the Rescue Board, Margo Klaos (left) and the candidate for the director general of the Defense Police, Margo Palloson (right), went smoothly at Lauri Läänemets, some confusion has arisen regarding the candidate for the new director of the Police and Border Guard Board.
If the disclosure of the candidate for the director general of the Rescue Board, Margo Klaos (left) and the candidate for the director general of the Defense Police, Margo Palloson (right), went smoothly at Lauri Läänemets, some confusion has arisen regarding the candidate for the new director of the Police and Border Guard Board. Photo: Tairo Lutter
  • Prime Minister Kaja Kallas expected Egert Belichev to head the PPA.
  • Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets submitted the name of Veiko Kommusaar.
  • The coalition will deal with the emerging contradiction.

It came as a surprise to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas that Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets recommended Veiko Kommusaar as the candidate for the position of director general of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), because she had previously considered Egert Belichev, the current deputy director of the Board, for the position.

When the competition for the position of police chief was held a month ago, Läänemets submitted three names to the state chancellery: Egert Belichev, Krista Aas and Kuno Tammearu. The first two are the deputies of the current head of the Police Board, Elmar Vaher, while Tammearu works as the head of the Rescue Board. The interior minister wanted the committee to select two out of three and tell him of their names.

State Secretary Taimar Peterkop, the head of the committee for the selection of top officials at the Government Office, explained that according to the law, this competition is not mandatory, since the heads of security institutions, including the Police Board, can be selected without it. However, Läänemets chose another path and therefore the committee tested and interviewed the candidates, had them pass personality and mental ability tests, and heard their visions for holding the post. After that, the committee members voted, ranked the candidates and – as agreed – sent two names to the minister, Belichev as the first choice and Aas as the second. But then the first problem emerged. Although at first two candidates were required from the commission, later the secretary general of the Ministry of the Interior wanted to add Kuno Tammearu as a third candidate.

Since Belichev had won the Government Office competition, the Prime Minister reckoned with him as the candidate. But it did not matter when the minister of the interior suddenly proposed Veiko Kommusaar, currently the ministry’s undersecretary, as the candidate. He was appointed to the position in 2020, when Mart Helme was the minister, having until then headed the law enforcement and criminal policy department of the Ministry of the Interior.

According to one of Kallas' assistants, the situation should not be viewed as a conflict between the prime minister and the minister of the interior or between the Reform Party and the Social Democrats. The question is purely about who is the most suitable person to lead an institution with 5,000 employees, especially during a security crisis.

State Secretary Peterkop expressed the same point of view in a mild way: “Managers have their own organic journey on the career ladder – Veiko Kommusaar has so far headed 20-member teams.”

It can certainly be said that both Belichev, who won the competition, and Krista Aas, who came in second, would in a sense be the continuation of the current system and the current PPA Director General Elmar Vaher's line, being as deputy directors the most logical choice for the position of top official. But now their new superior could be Kommusaar, who was selected without the competition.

According to Läänemets, it is not correct to say that Kommusaar came from outside. “He was one of my candidates from the beginning and I did not send him to the selection committee because he had already taken these tests,” he said. “The question is whether the minister of the interior and the ministry of the interior are trusted. Who else is better qualified to judge who is suitable to head the police? If a candidate was ruled out for political considerations, I could understand it, but if there is not – and I have been told that there is not – then the choice of the minister should be trusted.” Läänemets added that all in all, there is no major intrigue or conflict; it is rather a communication breakdown. He also expressed the opinion that since the position of PPA director is important and politically sensitive; perhaps some people have been whispering in the prime minister's ear and sowing doubts. “We will meet with our partners and discuss things calmly,” the minister said and added that the initial plan was to make the candidate's name public only this week, but someone leaked it earlier: “This shows that someone is worried about something.”

Nevertheless, it is difficult to understand what is going on. There is some speculation about the contradictions between the Ministry of the Interior and the PPA – some say that the ministry wants to bring in someone from outside the police system, while others refute this story. The fact is that the selection process, which was supposed to go smoothly, ended up in public as an uncomfortable conflict for everyone concerned.

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