“Communication and cooperation are key to solving crimes”
Hillevi Johansson is a Swedish Police Superintendent, who advises the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP) on criminal investigations. She enrolled in the Swedish Police Academy in January 1978, and over a long police career has spent over two decades specialised in investigations, leading large teams of police officers and specialists.
Her role at EUPOL COPPS involves providing advice and support for the PCP to help make police investigations more effective. Having previously worked in international missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Liberia, Johansson isn’t fazed by many challenges, instead focusing on promoting small, but important changes that might improve police operations.
Johansson believes that communication between different police departments, prosecutors, local authorities and the public is one of the most important elements for investigation teams. “Communication and cooperation are key to solving crimes,” she says. “Under the umbrella of a Criminal Investigations Department, you’ll have different areas – for example anti-narcotics, domestic and family violence, cybercrime, intelligence-led policing. They need to talk to each other”.
The Swedish expert underlines the importance for the police of building trusting relationships with local communities. “Investigators should have a close relationship with their colleagues working on community policing issues. Community policing officers are the ones with the contacts of social workers, local business and religious leaders, regular citizens – everyone that an investigator needs to talk to when trying to solve a crime. I have worked on community policing issues myself, I know how important it is to inform colleagues about what I know”.
With regard to the way in which investigations are conducted, Johansson notes that in her experience having one lead police investigator cooperating with one prosecutor is more effective than having too many people taking responsibility for one case. She argues for clearer lines of responsibility within investigations departments, as well as fewer hierarchical divisions, as well as more power for investigators and prosecutors to take decisions.
Expanding women’s participation in police services is a subject that is very close to Johansson’s heart. While working in Liberia, she mentored over 100 young women to prepare them to apply for the police academy. “93% of the group managed to pass the exam for the police academy. I treasure the letters I received afterwards. Most of the young women were from outside Monrovia [the capital of Liberia], so as well as mentoring, we also had to support them with practical elements like finding somewhere to stay while preparing for the exam. It was a special experience, and I feel we really helped make a difference”.
Johansson encourages greater participation of women in police services in the West Bank as well. “I would like to see more female police officers,” she says. “I’m a strong believer in that the police force should reflect the society they serve. That’s why I believe It’s important to deploy more female police officers to increase the trust of between police and citizens.”.
After participating in a tour of the West Bank’s 11 police districts in order to produce an analysis of the PCP’s needs, the Swedish expert was impressed with the commitment of the police officers she met. “Even though the political situation is complicated, even though they lack equipment, you can see that they are engaged. Even if the officers lack something, they’ll try and find a way around any problem. They are dedicated police officers”.
With the commitment of officers in the PCP, Johansson believes that a few structural changes, such as better communication and cooperation between departments and a reorganisation of responsibilities will make a decisive difference. And while she is deployed at EUPOL COPPS, she will do her best to support her Palestinian counterparts make those changes happen.