Ensuring security and public order
The abolition of border checks at land borders with the neighbouring Schengen countries has created a new situation as concerns ensuring security and public policy, in particular in the border regions. Prior to Schengen enlargement, the Czech police in cooperation with the neighbouring states were introducing a comprehensive set of police instruments with the view of compensating for the missing border checks. Security and public order in border areas is thus jointly protected by the police of both neighbouring states, who are endowed with specific powers including the possibility to operate in specific cases on the territory of other Schengen countries.
The checks of persons as well as other police actions, however, must not copy the function of border checks nor be equivalent to border checks. Police powers carried out on territory of Schengen states inluding those in border regions must fulfill the following rules laid down by the Schengen Borders Code:
- do not have border control as an objective,
- are based on general police information and experience regarding possible threats to public security and aim, in particular, to combat cross-border crime,
- are devised and executed in a manner clearly distinct from systematic checks on persons at the external borders,
- are carried out on the basis of spot-checks.
Leaving of land border crossing points did not mean a reduction in numbers and/or activities of the police in border regions. The police continue operating in the border areas at full strength, fulfilling standard police tasks to protect security and public order, while using also Schengen instruments of enhanced police cooperation such as SIS, cross-border surveillance and hot pursuit.
The reassignment of tasks among individual services of the Czech Police was reflected in the numbers of staff. These redeployments, however, did not change the total number of police officers in border areas. This aspect was one of the fundamental starting points of the reorganization of the former Alien and Border Police Service on 1 January 2008, for the redeployment of officers from the border crossing points inland could have been perceived as a weakening of security in the given area. A significant number of experienced police officers protecting the state borders were assigned new functions within the Traffic, Public Order and Railway Police, where they are able to make use of their experience gained in their past work.
As regards the impact of the integration to Schengen on the security of the Czech Republic as a whole, it must be emphasised that the Schengen standards present a significant increase in the quality of police and judicial cooperation among Member States, thus creating better conditions for combating crime.
Czech police officers and other selected authorities use the Schengen Information System (SIS) containing millions of data on selected categories of persons or goods (e.g. wanted or missing persons, objects, or vehicles). Access to the SIS has significantly increased the success rate and speed of finding persons and objects sought by the police.
- The effectiveness of the SIS proved in practice already during the first 100 days of the SIS in the Czech Republic, when e.g. the following results were scored:
- arrest of more than 30 persons wanted abroad and similar number of persons wanted in the Czech Republic;
- detection of 25 missing persons;
- detection of more than 130 stolen or lost objects, especially of motor vehicles and personal documents.
In the case that a serious threat to the public policy or internal security of the Czech Republic emerges despite all adopted measures, the goverment still have the possibility to issue a decree by which it will temporarily reintroduce control of the Czech internal borders. However, the government may resort to such a decision only in an exceptional situation; the reintroduction of border checks will have to be only temporary and last only for a limited time period not exceeding 30 days or for a foreseeable time of the existence of the serious threat. The specific form and scope of the renewed internal border protection will be determined ad hoc by the government decree and will depend on the situation, in particular the reasons for which the checks are to be reinstated.