Skip to main content
March 27, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 182
Cop Killing in Belgrade

The Chase

by Uros Komlenovic & Jovan Dulovic

The killing of two professional police officers and one "reservist" last week caused a number of articles by sociologists and psychologists in the pro-government press. Most of them were about the "Vietnam syndrome", overall loss of hope and crisis of morality. Comments by hand-picked lawyers backed the police in their demands to lower the age limit for criminal responsibility from 14 to 12, proscribe stricter punishment and give the police greater jurisdiction. Interestingly, the media praise of the police did not include a simple question: could the tragedies have been prevented, i.e. did the police react properly.

It's understandable that the police chased Predrag Janjic and Goran Milosavljevic across Nikola Pasic square and into Pionirski park on Monday, March 13 after they refused to show their ID cards and ran. The police stopped the bus the two criminals jumped on, which is also logical. The problem started when Janjic produced a hand grenade and pulled the pin.

The police grabbed Milosavljevic when he got out of the bus but Janjic (still clutching the hand grenade) shot policeman Radoljub Lukovic and ran into the park. Police officers chased him and he threw the bomb in the park crammed with children and strollers.

The rest we know: Lukovic was killed, four other policemen were wounded, Milosavljevic was arrested while Janjic shot himself in the head but did not kill himself.

Lukovic left a wife and three year old daughter behind while the public wonders if he had to die.

Once Janjic produced the grenade the police must have known that he was dangerous. Later it turned out that he had committed around 10 serious crimes in his 23 years. So the police decision to tackle him is dubious at best as well as the chase which seriously endangered a large number of passersby.

Logic dictates that they should have allowed him the escape while directing him towards a part of town where the damage would have been minimal and then called the anti-terrorist squad which should be trained for that kind of situation. Perhaps they thought he was bluffing, perhaps they were enraged by the cop killing, perhaps they wanted to prove themselves, but clearly a professional police force should have public safety foremost in their minds.

A renowned criminal expert said once that it's sometimes more useful to let a dangerous criminal get away because he will be captured sooner or later. It seems that solution was called for in this situation.

Just four days later, (Friday, March 17) Zeljko Maksimovic (32) killed policeman Goran Radulovic (27) in central Belgrade and escaped. He was captured later (allegedly he surrendered to the police). The dead policeman was on duty in plainclothes that day with another officer. The official account says they asked to see Maksimovic's ID but he pulled out a gun, shots rang out and he ran. Maksimovic, unofficial sources said, was an important figure in the Jugoskandik bank security force and later bodyguard to Jugoskandik lawyer Steva Protic. They said Maksimovic had been to war and earned a name for himself as a special forces expert. They said he owns two bars in Belgrade and several cars and is known as the quickest gun in town with a gun permit and has never been arrested before. He told interrogators that lots of people shot at him in the past and that was why he was careful. On the day in question he said two men in plain clothes had approached him, one of them shouted Hands Up! and he grabbed his gun. He said he was convinced his life was in danger. Maksimovic has kept quiet since that statement.

Maksimovic's story has to be taken with a pinch of salt and the investigation will show whether the dead policeman really approached him without introducing himself. Police regulations oblige undercover police officers to show ID but in practice that is somewhat different. Local policemen rarely show their ID and often threaten or even hit anyone who insists on seeing it.

A recent article in Politika Ekspres backs up Maksimovic's claims. It said uniformed police arrested him without any problems. They let him go once they saw his gun permit. There can be no justification for Maksimovic (shooting an unarmed man is a crime no matter what), but if his story is proved true it points to the conclusion that the tragedy could have been avoided if police procedure had been followed.

The tragedy of reservist policeman Nenad Preradovic (21) who was accidentally killed by his girlfriend who was playing with his gun needs no comment.

"Ever since they started the fight against crime, there has been more of it," a Belgrade judge commented. The murmuring in Belgrade's halls of justice is that the police are being trained to prevent riots and guard the villas in Dedinje but can't cope with increasingly brutal criminals. Former policemen have been saying all along that former Serbian internal affairs minister Radmilo Bogdanovic is to blame for the fact that city-born policemen and experienced professionals are leaving the force. They claim primitive rural folk are replacing them and cited several examples. One of those is the story that the current chief of police in Belgrade was, until recently, an officer in a town with just one traffic light. Not everyone can be born in Belgrade (ability not origins are important) but the small town experiences the new men bring are not much help in the capital where crime is something completely different. Police spokesmen say a very small number of Belgrade residents apply to join the force and that they should be thinking why that's so.

There are also unofficial warnings that the city's crime fighting department has been weakened in terms of personnel and financing. They sometimes don't even have the money for the most basic equipment and beginners often get cases they simply can't cope with. Personnel changes are too frequent which gravely affects a service where continuity is important. For example, experts said one inspector needs four years to organize a network of informers. The problem becomes clearer once you know that few inspectors stay in one place for more than a year. Anyone who criticizes superiors is transferred and the main advancement criterion is obedience.

Maybe incurable optimists could find something encouraging in the fact that the police are being issued new more elegant uniforms. The most visible item on the new uniforms is the big ID badge which they are obliged to wear. Also, their weapons are going to be standardized. They will be issued Zastava CZ99 9mm pistols with a 15 bullet magazine instead of the most often used TT model which only takes eight. Extremely ill-intentioned people say that this decision was taken to stop discontent over the fact that the police have not been given greater authority.

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.