CONCORD -- Half a world away, Estonian independence was again under pressure, but Eduard Raska was calm as he asked Attorney General John P. Arnold about crime reports.
"Who collects the statistics?" asked Raska, senior legal adviser to President Arnold Ruutel and head of a three-man delegation that came to New Hampshire last week and will head to Boston this week to find out how police in a democracy fight crime. "If the police collect the statistics, how can you be sure they are accurate?" Arnold started to explain how local officials, state police and the FBI kept records. He was interrupted, in a polite way, by Lowry Wyman, a fellow at Harvard University's Russian Research Center who acted as the interpreter.
"In Estonia," she said, "people often do not report crimes to the police because they have been under repression for so long they don't trust them."
"For the people in this delegation, live free or die has a real and poignant meaning," said Arthur F. Licata, a Boston lawyer accompanying the delegation.
One of Estonia's first, cautious steps toward independence was to declare its police agencies independent. This law was one of those that Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev declared illegal on Monday, provoking last week's crisis. It also brought Raska, Juri Kasesalu, deputy public prosecutor, and Arnold Tenusaar, a senior police official to New Hampshire.
In building a new criminal justice system, the Estonians face many tough issues.
Would such a system include all the freedoms of the United States? Could it work if people who feared a police squad kicking in their door at 2 a.m. did not tell the truth? Could this be done on budgets as tight as New Hampshire's?
"These questions make you think a lot about your own system and look at it in a different way," Licata said.
Raska said the Estonians picked New Hampshire because it is much like their homeland. Both have few cities, a cold climate, wide expanses of birch trees and rocky seashores.
"We wanted to show the delegation a state with a lot of rural areas and ) with budget problems," said Wyman, who coordinated the trip.
Budget issues were always present. In its first briefing, the delegation was impressed with how the State Police were financed through gasoline taxes and the Police Standards and Training Council was funded by a surcharge on fines.
"What happens if you need more officers?" Kasesalu asked Tom E. Smith, the police chief of Waterville Valley.
"You have to ask the selectmen and sometimes get a vote through Town Meeting," Smith replied, then said with a smile: "It's political."
The budget crunch was personal. Wyman and Licata had raised just enough money for the delegation's plane tickets, not enough for food or lodging. Licata drove them around in his car. So New Hampshire chipped in. The State Police Academy let the delegation stay in dormitory rooms.
"There are a lot of provocations," Wyman said, "The Russians seem to want to create violence as an excuse to come in." And Kasesalu said later that one of the country's problems is steering a moderate course to prevent radicals from moving the nation toward independence too quickly. And as the country wrestled with these problems, they had to bridge the long gaps between repression and democracy.
Arnold complained to the group that the State Police were too independent and his lawyers had a better relationship with municipal police. As Wyman translated, he stressed that these were minor disagreements. "When it comes to directing an investigation," he said, "authority remains in this office."
Raska replied: "We must find a balance so there won't be a concentration of power in one place."
After the sessions, the delegation talked of the problems of establishing a criminal justice system while democracy was developing at the same time.
"We may have to set up a system more close to the European one," Raska said, "until the people become more accustomed to democratic institutions." And Kasesalu added, "In order to have a system of the sort you have, there is a lot less control and the people have to be ready for it. But we can work in that direction."
"My guess," Licata said, "is that if we visited Estonia a few years from now, you'll see crime-fighting institutions something like New Hampshire's. You may not see the police in green uniforms and Smokey Bear hats, but you'll be able to recognize something.
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