The State Police, in 10 years: Debts, Betrayals, Confessions, and Documents

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  • Throughout the years, there have been a plethora of reforms, frequent shifts within the leadership hierarchy that have often infringed upon the State Police Law, and the bestowing of multiple ranks as favors to individuals with political affiliations. Additionally, there have been numerous contracts for equipment and vehicles for the police forces, many of which have disregarded legal regulations, resulting in the emergence of investigative files that have caused substantial scandals. Sadly, amidst all these developments, the lives of ordinary police officers have only become more challenging, indicating a significant lack of recognition for their dedication and professional contributions in the eyes of their superiors.

    Author: INA Newsroom

    He didn’t leave the police force even in 1997 when many officers resigned. He didn’t leave even when his car was burned down, which Munyr Muça interprets as a message after the murder of Chief Commissioner Dritan Lamaj, with whom he worked at the Kombinat Police Station. At that time, he suspected inadequate investigations, from failure to identify fingerprints to failure to verify phone records, but he still didn’t abandon the police force because he loved it as much as his family.

    At the helm for 27 years, the cup of Commissioner Munyr Muça filled up in October 2020 when he realized he was persisting on a headless path. He decided to leave the police and Albania.

    “I closed the chapter with the police. So many chiefs and directors are involved in criminal activities and have files!

    They have businesses, luxurious cars, and imagine me or many honest policemen like me who struggle to make ends meet,” begins the career officer’s story to INA MEDIA. He left for the UK as an immigrant and now works outside the profession to which he dedicated his life.

    For the commissioner in the police force, advancement in duty continues under political influences, depending on which party takes power. Although he had hoped that something would change after 2013, he remained an officer.

    “They brought people from civilian life and made them chiefs, young ones who became my superiors,” he lists among the problems with the police force and those of every administration that left the successor in a deadlock.

    He left, just like hundreds of other officers did, not only those who remained as basic role policemen for decades without the chance to advance in their careers but also those who opposed their superiors’ unlawful orders.

    “In 2018, I applied for the position of chief commissioner, which became the final promotion course. We went there, and the test was changed. Instead of filling out a form with 100 questions, some of which had to be written, it didn’t happen. Only 12 people won there,” recalls Commissioner Munyr Muça. At that time, when Ardi Veliu was the General Director, his chance to obtain the rank that he deserved by law, not only as a right but also as motivation for his career, was lost. In fact, Ardi Veliu himself obtained the rank a few days before being appointed General Director, which had also happened earlier with his predecessors. This influence to preselect chiefs and directors has never been investigated by the prosecution. In exclusive letters available to INA MEDIA, it is evident that a complaint filed by Muhamet Rrumbullaku, the chief at the time in the Internal Affairs Office (now the agency), regarding the appointment of two officers and their promotion while under investigation by the Directorate of Standards, was not pursued by Tirana’s prosecution office.

    Commissioner Munyr Muça

    But unlike Commissioner Muça, who resisted for 27 years, Emiliano Nuhu tells INA MEDIA that he fled and sought asylum under real danger conditions. After registering Xhisiela Maloku’s complaint against Rexhep Rraja (the son of former Socialist Party deputy Rrahman Rraja), he became convinced that some of his colleagues were recording the reports and were not on the side of the citizens. Nuhu claims that the whistleblower was threatened in the office of one of the officers, and the same thing happened to him.

    On August 14, 2018, Officer Nuhu sent an email to the General Director of the State Police, Ardi Veliu, informing him that he had been threatened by Redjan Rraja and Ramazan Rraja (the nephew of the former deputy). This email, made available to INA MEDIA, shows Veliu the evidence about the police force he was leading at the time.

    “Considering the fact that these individuals are a contingent with pronounced criminal tendencies in placing explosive materials in vehicles and residences, powerful, impulsive, and always armed, not affected by local police structures, I feel endangered,” Nuhu writes to the number one of the police, Ardi Veliu.

    Email from Emiliano Nuhu to the Director General of State Police

    He received no response from his superior. Emiliano Nuhu tells Investigative Network Albania that the reaction was an order that transferred him to Berat.

    “They simply retaliated by moving me 100 km away from my place of residence because I was continuing the duties delegated to me by the prosecutor, and this was the best way to recover the case,” Nuhu says to INA MEDIA, recalling that he was later accused of misconduct in the prosecutor’s office.

    Just like for Nuhu, who follows the developments of how the police in Kruja failed to act in time regarding a second episode of violence involving the Rraja family, who brutally attacked a citizen after he reported the guard of the socialist deputy’s brother, Munyr Muça emphasizes that the failure to clean up the police force is one of the main problems of this institution.

    For him, it was difficult to start life as an immigrant at the age of 52, but Muça had lost everything in his homeland, including his house, which was demolished to build an apartment building.

    “Today, I am 55 years old. I have completed two higher academies, the Land Academy and the Order Academy. In 1993, I became a commander in the Guard for the first time. In 1994, I became a crimes inspector,” the commissioner nostalgically recalls.

    As someone knowledgeable about all the transitions in the Albanian police, he loudly states that one cannot progress in the police force without support, especially when laws and superiors, who change, affect careers in the police, leading to promotion without meritocracy, which in turn has an impact on the officers and crime fighting.

    “The law requires that every year, in February, the grading configuration is done. Since 2012, it has only been opened once. I was nobody; I didn’t fit into the preferred ranks,” emphasizes the former commissioner to INA MEDIA.

    The State Police admits that since 2013, 1,405 employees have left their careers in the police force. However, annual reports studied by INA MEDIA show that an average of 350 to 400 personnel are discharged from duty each year, who are replaced by an increasing number of recruits, such as students. The State Police further informs INA MEDIA that the latest competition was opened last autumn by the General Director, Muhamet Rrumbullaku.

    “The competition for obtaining the rank is held according to the needs of the police. The latest competition was held in September for obtaining the rank of sub-commissioner,” the police institution responds.

    However, out of the 10,599 personnel that should constitute the police structure, currently, only 9,632 personnel are on duty, which means that the police force is lacking nearly 1,000 officers as of the publication of this article.

    Current structure of the State Police

    Layoffs… revenge, reinstatements, and recurring structures

    The maximum number of employees for the State Police is determined by Decision No. 531 of the Council of Ministers, dated July 28, 2022. Taking into account civilian employees as well, the State Police should have 11,834 personnel, out of which 10,599 should be police officers.

    According to research by INA MEDIA, Albania has 231 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants. The digital police station, considered as the path for citizens’ complaints, not only for noise and parking issues, is currently out of function due to a cyber-attack and has been under investigation since 2021.

    “They constantly ring the bell for the bar below,” recalls Drita, a resident on Komuna e Parisit Street. “The owner of the bar didn’t know it was me. I apologized to him. Then I solved the problem. I would send material to this section, and the police officers get scared when I provide evidence. These guys downstairs have connections with their superiors. They would come and shut them down,” complains the elderly woman.

    Involved in experimental structures that dissolve without results, the shortest-lived movement appears to be the transformation of RENEA into a police station (during the time when the State Police was led by director Artan Didi), which later returned to its historical status as a special forces unit, as is the case with similar units worldwide.

    However, the peak of structural changes occurred during the time of former General Director Ardi Veliu, who reportedly signed the restructuring of the State Police three times. OFL and FAST were two structures aimed at seizing the assets of dangerous individuals and arresting fugitives, but they turned out to be job factories.

    In the documents available to INA MEDIA for each police station during this period, the most peculiar movement, signed by Veliu, was recorded in the Has Police Station. The structure of this police station, consisting of 30 personnel, had only one crime investigation agent.

    A report by the Parliamentary Investigative Commission, from 2014, established to oversee the implementation of legislation in force during the movements in the State Police, shows that the State Police continues to face unresolved issues with officer stability and promotions. With the aim of assessing the movements that occurred within the police force between September 15, 2013, and January 31, 2014, when the Ministry of Interior was led by Saimir Tahiri, the commission attempted to simultaneously address the issue of rehiring some former officials who had been dismissed prior to 2014, suspected of corrupt activities and involvement in criminal activities.

    Summoned by the investigative commission on the new structure approved by former Minister Tahiri in October 2013, the Deputy General Director of the State Police at that time admitted that none of the police leaders had proposed changes to the structure.

    After this session, Muhamet Rrumbullaku was “affected” by the new “TAHIRI” structure, initially asked to relinquish his rank and leave the police force, only to return in 2019 as the head of the Internal Affairs Service (now the Police Oversight Agency). On the other hand, partial responsibility for the merger of structures was acknowledged by Hysni Burgaj, as the General Director, who was also appointed before 2013, simultaneously gaining multiple ranks. However, the documents made available to INA MEDIA show that the most typical case illustrating how officers are compelled to relinquish their ranks is that of Edmond Riza, the former head of the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime.

    He is the only officer who opposed the demotion from the “First Director” rank and was subsequently penalized with a rank reduction for 6 months, which he challenged in court. The court ruled in his favor. According to INA MEDIA’s investigation, a total of 403 police personnel left during this period, while 248 others were reinstated, who also held leadership positions at the time of their departure from duty.

    From monitoring the website, we can see that the dismissals of the vast majority of officers have been subject to review in the Court of Appeals, which also includes dismissed officers for failing to monitor the territory for gambling activities. The Court of Appeals is the same court that has declared and simultaneously has under consideration the promotion of ranks without competition, as mandated by the Law on State Police. The winners of the judicial ranks obtained them based on the position they were assigned, whereas the opposite should have occurred, with appointments being made according to ranks for these positions.

    Amidst the two sides of an unstable reality for the police, a battle for career advancement is being fought by former Deputy General Director for Police Training, Anila Rumano Hoxha, who is preparing to take the case to the Strasbourg Court.

    “With an order from Saimir Tahiri, through the new organization of the State Police, the department was merged and thus the position of the director was eliminated, issuing an unlawful order that removed me from the ranks of the State Police. I say unlawful because the Law on State Police guarantees employees of the State Police a new position at the same rank they held or one rank lower, depending on the possibilities of placement. In my case, not only was my mandate as department director interrupted, which is provided for in this case when the mandate of the department director is interrupted, but these subsequent actions were not taken; I was neither called nor offered a job position, but directly removed from the State Police,” recalls the former official.

    Former First Director Anila Rumano Hoxha among colleagues of the State Police

    Rumano won the case in the Supreme Court, which ruled in her favor, found the decision of former Minister Tahiri to be unlawful, and granted her financial compensation until the end of her mandate in January 2016. However, despite this ruling, when she requested the issuance of a lawful order, the State Police refused.

    On November 20, 2015, I submitted a request to the Police Directorate, reminding them that my term would expire on January 5. I requested the issuance of a lawful order for my departure from the State Police and also requested financial treatment as a State Police officer. They did not agree. I also approached the Minister of Interior and found no solution,” she expresses.

     “After this, I initiated another lawsuit, seeking the issuance of a lawful release order, as I saw their unavailability to reinstate me in the police as impossible.”

    In the Second Instance, Ms. Rumano won after eight open sessions, with a decision from the court stating that the State Police must issue a release order and fulfill financial obligations.

    “The Supreme Court was asked by the police not to implement the Court of Appeals’ decision, arguing that implementing this decision would set a dangerous precedent,” says Rumano to INA MEDIA, who received a response from the court stating that “the case had already been judged” and she had no rights in this respect.

    In an official response to INA MEDIA, the State Police acknowledges that from 2013 until the publication of the article, 783 police officers were dismissed, including 197 mid-level and senior officers and 586 operational-level police officers.

    “For the same period, it appears that four General Directors have been replaced: Artan Didi, Haki Çako, Ardi Veliu, and Gledis Nano. The climax was reached with Haki Çako, who was suspended from duty as a suspect of duty abuse for the IMSI Catcher scandal, brought to Albania following a bilateral agreement between the Albanian and Italian governments.

    The documents obtained by INA MEDIA show that this personal security measure remained in effect for only 10 days and was overturned by the Court of Appeals. Despite Çako’s insistence that the device, which tracked the IMEI of mobile phones, was not used in Albania, the prosecution found evidence indicating that the police officer Entiol Xhelili (who has also been dismissed from Albania) was in possession of an IMSI Catcher in at least two cases. The investigation was suspended for the police’s top official and several accomplices and remains pending the correspondence from the Italian justice system.

    Muhamet Rrumbullaku, the current Director of the State Police, transitioned from the Police Oversight Agency to leading the blue uniforms. He was replaced in the oversight agency by Veliu, who now heads not only the oversight agency but also the vetting process within the police ranks.

    From an INA MEDIA’S observation on the website regarding the findings of the External Evaluation Commission on decisions that should have been made public, these decisions were not accessible. On the website, in the “Police Vetting” section, only one decision dated May 26, 2023, is published, while notifications for vetting sessions are inaccessible, as it states: “This section does not exist.”

    Ardi Veliu, former Director General of the State Police.

    Ardi Veliu, former Director General of the State Police, now heads the Police Monitoring Agency (AMP), which, according to his Curriculum Vitae published on the official website, indicates that he returned to the police force after 2013, 7 years after serving in the Municipal Police of Vlora. He climbed the ranks in several local directorates until 10 days before being appointed Director General of the State Police, when he obtained the rank of First Director.

    Like his predecessors, Veliu did not complete his mandate, facing serious issues regarding law and order, such as the killing of Klodian Rasha. Three years later, the police spokesperson, Gent Mullai, admitted that the police made a mistake when they claimed that the firearm found at the scene belonged to the deceased.

    “We stated this based on preliminary information obtained from a police officer,” Mullai declared on July 5, 2023. However, the case of the Glock pistol was never investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for falsifying the crime scene, aiming to create the perception that the police shot the deceased as he was armed. This case remains unresolved.

    Another incident was marred by controversy following the killing of Pjerin Xhuvani in Elbasan on April 21, 2021. Contrary to the statement of the former Director General Veliu, who initially claimed that no evidence of vote-buying was found at the crime scene, Arjan Hoxha, one of the self-proclaimed volunteers for protecting the vote, insisted that the person who blocked a vehicle (driven by Mehmet Greca) had voter lists.

    The Prosecution and the court confirmed this testimony, leading to charges of abuse of duty against six officials, including two deputy directors. The investigation revealed that the Director General had not told the truth, not only regarding electoral crimes but also regarding the police’s lack of action despite receiving a report. The police failed to intervene and accompany the parties involved, including the complainant, Greca.

    “Five sheets with lists of names and IDs, 17 format sheets, copies of identity cards and biometric passports, 5 fingerprint copiers, and a patronage form with the name Met Dafllaku were found,” as mentioned in the decision, contradicting the claims made by Director Veliu.

    Nevertheless, Veliu currently leads the Police Monitoring Agency, which is responsible for overseeing legality and ethics within the State Police.

    Serious problems in internal communication. Officers are betrayed.

    In an exclusive interview with INA MEDIA, an anonymous police officer reveals how he was betrayed by senior superiors. He describes how many of them were reluctant to input data into MEMEX, the Criminal Information Management System, regarding suspects with criminal charges. The officer, serving in Elbasan, accuses the police of hesitating to document information about criminal groups, as, according to him, the SK2 information has leaked outside the police force on several occasions, putting them at risk.

    The officer begins his testimony by recalling a case in which he received information about the wanted individual, Talo Çela.

    The information in question was about the exact whereabouts of this wanted person, the people accompanying him, his hiding place, the type of vehicle, the vehicle’s license plate, and photos of the vehicle. I did not input this information into MEMEX, and it went directly to the Director General of the State Police, Ardi Veliu. Meanwhile, we, the officers dedicated to fighting crime, expected some swift action to capture the wanted person, but we never received a response or updates.”

    He expresses regret that if the information had been used in real-time, it could have led to additional intelligence on Talo Çela’s movements, potentially resulting in his arrest. However, this is not an isolated problem.

    A document from 2021, obtained by INA MEDIA, lists other equally serious issues, such as the withholding of information by superiors.

    “For serious incidents, deputy directors and their deputies fail to inform the central sectors and directorates in real-time. Often, information is obtained from the media or social networks. The initiation of undercover operations begins based on inaccurate information. This phenomenon has frequently led to the termination of Undercover Operations, which, in addition to the high risk to police officers, also incur considerable financial costs. The information received from the Preemptive Wiretapping Units does not comply with the requirements of Law No. 69/2017. In many cases, the phone numbers for the subjects involved in preemptive wiretapping are not active,” the document states, highlighting the unresolved problems within the police force.

    RENEA also faces suspicions of compromises

    A.T. (the officer’s name and initials have been changed to protect his identity) was one of those young officers who could have had a future in the State Police. After a short period as a police officer in Tirana, he competed and became part of the elite RENEA unit. However, his career did not last long. Two consecutive operations, in which he saw a different reality from his passion for the law, as well as suspicions of compromises within the ranks, led him to an irrevocable resignation from the State Police.

    It was in 2020 when RENEA was ordered to unexpectedly inspect Ervis Martinaj’s businesses, at that time an untouchable and powerful figure. A. T. had learned that when RENEA conducts inspections and apprehends dangerous individuals, the principle of safety applied is to handcuff and restrain anyone. This was the standard he followed that day, when armed and masked, the situation led him to order Ervis Martinaj to lie down on the ground.

    When the special forces encountered resistance, they reacted by forcefully restraining him, and at one point, A. T.’s colleagues saw him slap the well-known figure, referred to as the “king of gambling“. But shortly after, A. T. professionally handled the situation. He noticed some of his superiors consoling Ervis Martinaj, calming him down with the words: “Don’t worry.”

    Under anonymity, A. T.’s friends, an officer in RENEA, speak to INA MEDIA about the breaking point of the former police officer, who now serves as a professor at a faculty.

    “After that moment, we continued with the inspections, and G. M. was surprised by the readiness of some superiors. He gathered us later and declared, ‘I will leave the police. This is not the police I wanted.'”

    Among the special forces officers, rumors had been circulating for some time about whether they were being betrayed from within their ranks or by someone else. With suspicions that they had been compromised, failed operations over the years prevented RENEA from capturing wanted individuals such as Gëzim Çela, a suspected trafficker, Talo Çela, Klement Balili, and Ervis Martinaj.

    One veteran officer in RENEA adds, “The first time we arrived for a surprise inspection in Fushë Kuqe was based on information that a mayor from the northern part of the country had been beaten there. He had been playing poker and had lost a lot of money. We were briefed and set off. We neutralized and kept everyone, including the clients, restrained. We found luxury cars and keys inside. Later, we learned that the Bajrat had been there and had left before we arrived. We realized that someone had tipped them off, and everyone had fled. We took Ervis Martinaj to the local police station along with the armored vehicle, and later he was released,” recalls the officer the events from three years ago.

    Some with Luxury Vehicles, Some with Scrap Metal, Abusive Expenses Don’t Stop

    According to the documents obtained by INA MEDIA, the issue of vehicles for the police is a recurring story. In one of the audits ordered by the former General Director of the Police, Gledis Nano, it is observed that the police use leased vehicles, and an additional fee of 0.5 euro/km is charged for every extra kilometer. The damage caused to the state amounts to 1,877,425 euros.

    “In Tirana, it is noted that 48 vehicles, which are rented operationally according to contract no. 17/4, dated 19.06.2017, exceed the mileage limits by 3,754,850 km compared to the limits set in clause 7.7 of contract no. 17/4, dated 19.06.2017.

     For the excess mileage, based on the bid form, each additional kilometer realized will be invoiced at 0.5 euro/km, resulting in an economic loss to the state budget amounting to 1,877,425 euros,” the audit states, which has not yet been included in the investigative files.

    While the State Police pays staggering amounts for patrol vehicles and high-ranking officials, the RENEA unit remains with adapted vehicles.

    Under anonymity, an officer reveals how even the police elite was affected to the point where the vehicles for operations were also adapted. The vehicles were delivered when Sander Lleshaj was Minister of Interior and Ardi Veliu was the General Director of the Police.

    “Today, RENEA goes to crime scenes in high-capacity Ford Transit vans, but they were not designed for passengers. They were cargo vans. We jokingly call them ‘potato vans’ because we squeeze ourselves in,” the officer explains to INA MEDIA. However, when he and his colleagues raised this issue with superiors, he claims they received the response: “Either use these vehicles or walk, go stand under the tree,” a euphemism implying the former tree in front of the Ministry of Interior, where dismissed officers waited to be reinstated.

    Is There a Solution?

    As an ex-officer who still values the police force, Munyr Muça believes that deep interventions are needed, starting with actual control over the blue uniforms and reducing the volume of police officers’ activities.

    “The police are dealing with issues like illegal parking, unauthorized constructions, water deposits, and noise in local establishments. Can you imagine how much time and energy is wasted on these problems? The police focus on volume-related matters rather than addressing crime. It is impossible for just one inspector from Vaqarr to control drug trafficking in a territory, for example. It’s not feasible to leave it solely to the zone inspector,” says Muça.

    Enumerating the problems, Muça highlights the lack of real investigations as a major issue.

    “How many cases can you find where they catch and gather police officers? Find me a case where a police chief or director from within their ranks has been investigated and penalized. Only commanders and non-directive rank holders are penalized. Find me an inspector who has been promoted after solving a crime, decorated…” Muça raises these rhetorical questions.

    Klodian Xhaferri, who graduated in Turkey and joined the police force after 2013, shares the same opinion. His career was short-lived, and he insists that he left the police, emigrating from the country. He emphasizes to INA MEDIA that there are many who are disappointed.

    “There is a phrase that police station chiefs often use: ‘I know it!’ And the superior has complete power over subordinates, including the officer of the Judicial Police, who depends on them. This is how it happens: when the superior orders an arrest, they don’t arrest; when it is not necessary to arrest, they do. The police station chief has full authority because they have warm connections to issue orders,” says Xhaferri.

    He explains to INA MEDIA that the conflict with superiors started when he refused to make an arrest without following proper procedures.

    But the rule is that the officer should communicate with the prosecutor during the arrest procedure. In fact, the arrest is made by order or at the request of the police station chief. I had cases involving property damage, theft of a package of coffee, or theft of an energy drink can, where the chief said, ‘Arrest them.’ As soon as this debate started, I would communicate with the prosecutor, and that’s when problems and debates arose. Because a police officer has nowhere to express their problem when there is no support. Your problem is not heard anywhere, and you will automatically face clashes. In these circumstances, when the ranks are disturbed, they transfer you. I submitted my resignation letter and left Albania disappointed,” the ex-police officer emphasizes.

    Over the years, there have been numerous reforms, frequent movements within the leadership ranks often violating the State Police Law, and granting multiple ranks as favors to political favorites. Contracts for equipment and vehicles for the forces have been numerous, often violating the law and resulting in investigative files that have led to significant scandals. However, the life of a simple police officer has only become more difficult, showing that the value of their effort and career in the eyes of superiors is very low.

    Ky shkrim është pjesë e projektit që mbështetet financiarisht nga Zyra e Mardhënieve me Publikun e Ambasadës së SH.B.A. në Tiranë. Opinionet, gjetjet, konkluzionet dhe rekomandimet e shprehura janë te autor-it/ve dhe nuk përfaqesojnë domosdoshmërisht ato të Departamentit të Shtetit. / This article is part of a project that is financially supported by the Public Relations Office of the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of State.