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Training Public Enforcement Officers in Communication and Public Appearance

21 02 2019

Training Public Enforcement Officers in Communication and Public Appearance

As the perception survey that we carried out back at the beginning of 2018 in cooperation with CeSID demonstrated the citizens have a predominantly negative attitude towards enforcement and the public enforcement officers, citing to a large extent insufficient information and understanding of the procedure as a cause for this. On the other hand, media reports on enforcement are insufficient and often incorrect.

This situation has been considerably aggravated for the public enforcement officers and their Chamber in the past year through frequent negative press, as well as periodic organized campaigns against the existing system of enforcement of which they are an integral part. In the published articles citizens often cite lack of transparency in the system overall and the work of public enforcement officers, especially when it comes to forced collection through selling immovable property and/or their possessions. In response to these claims, public enforcement officers invoke court decisions upon which they are acting, as well as court control of almost all steps in the enforcement procedure. When this type of dialogue comes about, where often the central issue is that of a roof over someone’s head, arguments are mostly in the background, in the shadows of the story on human destinies and alleged wrongdoing.

USIAD Rule of Law Project has been working both with the Chamber of Public Enforcement Officers and the Ministry of Justice on improving the public image of the system of enforcement in Serbia. The Project is supporting the drafting of amendments to the existing Law on Enforcement and Security which will, among other things, introduce a greater degree of transparency with the selling of immovable and movable property, improve supervision over the work of public enforcement officers, and create conditions for a more consistent application of the proportionality principle when determining the means for enforcement. As of recently, the Chamber engaged a PR person and the Project is providing technical and expert assistance to them in creating communication tools and press releases, as well as building better relations with the media.

Training participants emphasized the following: ‘We want to dismantle the stereotypes on our profession, to speak in a language free of legal jargon and in a manner understandable to the citizens with basic educations as well as academics explain the complexity and purpose of the efficient system of enforcement.’

As part of this assistance, the Project supported the training on the subject of public appearance and efficient communication with the media for the representatives of the Chamber of Public Enforcement Officers. During the two-day training, through theoretical concepts and practical exercises, the training participants identified what image as an institution they want to project towards public, as well as how to formulate the key messages that they will use in future public appearances and communicate them in a language understandable to the general public regardless of their education and/or knowledge about the system of enforcement. They have also received a set of concrete advice on how to prepare for the media appearance or an interview, from how to adjust their body language to how to dress to leave the most favorable impression.

The Project will continue to work with all institutions and stakeholders in the enforcement procedure so as to ensure harmonized and transparent practices across the board and improve the understanding and acceptance of enforcement among the general public as the key aspect of ensuring full rule of law in Serbia.

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