Croatian police. Photo: EPA-EFE/ALEX HALADA.
Croatian police told BIRN that a Police Academy student in Zagreb who “initiated and published the video” of fellow cadets dancing the Uzicko kolo, a traditional Serb folk dance, and who was also filmed dancing in her police uniform, has been expelled from the Academy.
Police also said that disciplinary proceedings will be initiated against six people from the Police Academy staff, while “appropriate sanctions” will be imposed on the other participants who were filmed.
Under the Academy’s statute, “it is not allowed to publish materials electronically or otherwise, which could result in damage to the reputation, honour and dignity of another person or the MUP [police]”, they explained.
Video footage of the students dancing the Uzicko kolo at a late-night party was posted on YouTube on July 17, sparking both criticism and support from Croatians.
Some were aggrieved that the cadets were doing a dance associated with Serbia. Relations between the two countries have remained problematic since the 1991-95 war.
“They have no place in the police, and all those responsible should be given the sanctions they deserve,” Dubravko Jagic, president of the Police Union of Croatia, told RTL television on Monday.
Others however were appalled by the fact that young people were being sanctioned for having fun, and concerned by that they were being targeted for being filmed doing a Serb dance.
Another Croatian police union, the Police Officers’ Union, pointed out that the country and its police have more serious issues, such as “corruption” and police chiefs who “hang out with criminals” than Police Academy cadets dancing Uzicko kolo.
“The same dance had been danced on [Zagreb’s main] Ban Josip Jelacic Square, it is danced at weddings, and it is danced by many hypocrites who are now gloating,” the Police Officers’ Union said in a statement on Facebook, suggesting that there would have been no be no such reaction if a folk dance from another country had been performed.
“It is interesting that in our society, ‘great Croats’ go to church on Sundays and listen to cajke [Serbian turbo-folk] in the evening, and, on the other hand, hypocritically interpret this [Police Academy cadets’ party] as a serious crime against national security,” the union said.
It added that this was “a true picture of our society and proof that we as a nation have not yet achieved a level of democracy that is expected of us since we have been part of the European Union”.
The police have not commented on whether the type of dance was an issue, but have said that the time of night at which the recording was made was problematic, and that the Academy’s management had approved the gathering contrary to regulations.
Croatian media reported that Academy students had just had ten weeks of intensive classes and had not left the premises due to the coronavirus, so the Academy authorities allowed socialising until midnight instead of the usual 10pm.