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Hungary Table of Contents


National Police

The public police forces performed routine police duties throughout the country. Although they operated within local jurisdictions, they were centrally organized and controlled by the Ministry of Interior.

To become a public police officer, a candidate had to have finished general elementary school and, in theory, to have completed two ten-month training periods. However, most officers serving in 1989, according to the Ministry of Interior, did not have this kind of education. In the late 1980s, morale problems affected the police. Inflation had eaten away their salaries, and the crime increases had overburdened their work loads (see Incidence of Crime , this ch.) In addition, policemen could not travel to the West. On July 5, 1989, policemen founded the Independent Policemen's Trade Union to protect their interests.

As Hungary inched toward democracy during the late 1980s the populace felt freer to criticize the police. The Ministry of Interior, in turn, felt obliged to publicize reforms. For example, in April 1989, the Federation of Young Democrats staged a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior. This organization was protesting the lenient sentences given by military courts to policemen who committed brutality. Federation members demanded that the minister of interior resign and that the ministry be removed from party control.

More surprising was the ministry's reaction to this criticism. In a press conference, a ministry spokesperson claimed that the "direct supervision" of the ministry had indeed been transferred to the government. During the same month, a ministry spokesperson condemned the acts of some police officers who had abused their authority and engaged in "impermissible activities." In the late 1980s, the ministry appeared to be concerned with its public image and claimed to be investigating "all allegations" of unlawful or improper activities by its agents. In a rather euphemistic but telling statement, Minister of Interior Horvath proclaimed in August 1989 that "protection of the public order [must] be provided according to European standards in the late 20th century."

Data as of September 1989