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I don't sleep with a gun under mye pillow anymore

Fast Confession - Robert Šlachta: On arresting mobsters, women and future

David Budai
09.Jul 2020
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11 minutes

Robert Šlachta is currently the most famous police officer in civilian clothes. He left the service after almost 30 years and has now written a breathtaking book of memories, in which he describes his beginnings with the police, as well as exposing mobsters or corrupt politicians and the medially well-known intervention at the government at the time when Petr Nečas and his mistress Jana Nagyová (now Nečasová) worked there. Although Robert is currently very busy with promoting his book, he took the time to reveal a number of interesting facts about the way the police works and about his personal life in an interview for Where does he stand with women and why are people afraid of him? Read on to find out.

What is it like to be a bit of a celebrity?

I don't think I'm a celebrity. I got used to attention already when I was the director of ÚOOZ (Department for Detecting Organized Crime, ed. note), during that time, I would frequently stand up for my people and I was able to communicate my work. Now it's different in that I don't have superiors over me anymore, so I don't have to keep looking over my shoulder and making sure that I don‘t say something I‘m not supposed to say. And that may be why the book Thirty Years Under Oath was written. I'm commenting on things I couldn't comment on until then.

Is it a relief to finally be "free"?

I've been a cop for 30 years and on the one hand it's definitely a relief, because it got really bad towards the end. I was completely cornered, they were pushing me against the wall every day, I had to explain myself all the time, they hoped I'd grow tired of it… But on the other hand, I loved the job and it was much harder to be without it. But I don't miss politicians and I'd really like to kick them in the ass. (laughs) But of course I miss my job and the people who used to work there.

Was writing the book also a form of therapy?

It was more like settling my business. When I left the police in 2016, I saw what the media were able to do and how many times they twisted the information to their liking. So I thought people would be interested in hearing it from my point of view, the way I saw it.

Let‘s take the case of Nečas and Nagy as an example, when, according to some people, we were responsible for the fall of the government. In my book, I explain that Prime Minister Nečas has never engaged in corrupt practises, it was never about the government, but about a particular government official. And if she ends up bieng the prime minister's mistress and things go as far as they did, then Šlachta is not to blame. Rather, politicians should remember why they are in their offices and that they should have moral credit. Their behaviour should be twice as exemplary as that of regular citizens.

I didn't want to keep the information to myself. I might have broken some taboo that the police never speak up, they rather keep their mouth shut, get a crony and everyone‘s happy. But I had to say it, I was full of it. I wanted to describe what we were like and what our motivation was.

How do people treat you today when they meet you on the street?

During that time, there was one lady who attacked me, but otherwise, when people recognize me, they rather tell me that they‘re keeping their fingers crossed for me and they are sorry for what happened. Of course, it's something else on Facebook and social networks in general, but thanks to the advice I got from various youtubers who are used to this, I already know that I should not spare a single thought on it. Those losers whose single mission in life is leaving rude comments, but they can't even put up a photo or use their own name are not worth wasting my time on.

The first edition of the book sold out immediately. Did that surprise you?

It surprised me a lot. When I was putting the book together with journalist Josef Klíma, I often wondered if anyone would be interested in it at all. I have to admit that I'm pleasantly surprised. People give me positive feedback on Facebook.

Are you thinking about writing a novel with a police or criminal setting?

I promise I will never write anything anymore! (laughs) It's usually not good to follow up on something good, and I'm not a writer, I don't want to overreach. I'll leave it to the proffesional. This was supposed to be just a confession of who I was and what I was doing.

Luxusní byt k pronájmu - Praha 1 - Nové Město
Luxusní byt k pronájmu - Praha 1 - Nové Město, Praha 1

When you see some people you've investigated or arrested waking around freely, even years later, how do you feel about it?

If you, as a police officer, dwelled on that, you‘d never do anything. You‘d always tell yourself it's useless. We‘ve been blamed for it many times, but I think that it serves mainly to prevent the police from being too bold and to keep them out of places they used to be allowed in, for example politics. So that the police would think: "It's better to let this slide, let‘s rather catch those who deserve it and who are easier." Because the higher you try to go, in politics as well as in finance, the more complicated it is.

Have you ever had a personal crisis and wanted to quit during those thirty years at the police?

There were plenty of such moments. I remember an affair back in 1998, when the Albanian-Czech environment tried to accuse me of stealing office vehicles. I was one step away from ending in custody. Then it was explained, and I spent the next day thinking whether it‘s worth it.

But such crises occur in every job, on Fridays you're exhausted, you're sick of it, you don‘t know how to go on. The cases often dragged on for a year, I didn't know what to do. And on Monday, I was full of energy again and I just went and did my job.

People keep asking me, “Why were you doing it? Why did you sacrifice so much for it?” And I always tell them it's the kind of police department that‘s worth sacrificing for. Until the end, I believed that I was serving the state. It wasn't until after Nagyová that we were ready, those of us who had been working on it, to leave. We were sure that they‘d give us the boot anyway.

How many times have you received a bribe offer?

I must say that I have never received a bribe offer. Maybe it was because of the way I acted, that nobody ever thought it would be a good idea to approach me. But I have been accused of taking a bribe several times, because if they have nothing on you, this is one thing the media can always use.

And if a policeman wanted to get rich on bribes, is that possible?

The most famous bribe was probably Jirka Komárek from Ostrava, from my branch, when the alcohol boss Březina tried to bribe him, offering him 10 million for rigging his investigation and file. And now it's in trial.

Usually, people want to gain access to a certain piece of information or file. And if you are in a department where it is possible, you can get rich. But I think it's short-sighted, it's a road to hell. The environment works in such a way that once you take something, they, for example Albanians, come back in a year or two and always take it back. You have to avoid that slippery slope.

Can you even find a normal job now?

I can not. People offer me jobs in the private sector, but it's because they want information, experience and contacts. And I've already announced that I don't want to work in a security agency, I don't want to be used for such things. On the other hand, a lot of people are afraid to link themselves with Šlachta, because I bring with me the rumours that are circulating about me, and they don‘t want to be in a conflict of interest. I have no idea what I‘m going to do yet, I am somewhat torn.

You probably didn't have much time left for personal life during your years of service. Do you feel the need to make up for it now?

Not really. Several months have passed since I quit, so I've managed to gain some perspective. But because I was working on the book, I was so busy that I hardly even realized I didn't belong there anymore. But I don't regret a single minute. I wouldn't trade it for anyting and it was a wonderful life. It was hard, full of action, but I'm not a person to regret it.

Now that I think about what I lost, though… Since I've never lived with anyone, it will be hard for me now to build some family life. Because I'm not used to it, and I‘m not the youngest chicken in the fold. It will probably be difficult.

And are you thinking about starting a family?

To be honest, I'm not thinking about it now. But if something‘s meant to happen, it will happen and I‘ll take it as it comes. So far, I'm constantly busy because of the book, but never say never.

Women probably find you very attractive, right? You‘re like an action hero…

Totally, forty-eight and single! It‘s much more likely that they think there must be something wrong with me… (laughs)

So they aren‘t sending you messages and asking you out?

So far, nothing like that has happened. Rather, people seem to be a little afraid of me. They often think I am stern and uncompromising. And then when they meet me and get to know me better, they realize that it's not like that. So maybe that's one reason. Or maybe I seem cold and aloof.

Luxusní byt na pronájem - Praha 1 - Nové Město
Luxusní byt na pronájem - Praha 1 - Nové Město, Praha 1

I seem to have read that you‘ve had a surgery on your protruding ears. It is true?

The rumour has been around. (laughs) It was sometime in 2006, a friend told me she had a doctor who would fix my ears. So I visited him, he told me that it‘s done on an outpatient basis in case of children, and I decided to have it done.

And was the surgery painful? After all, children don't even notice it, but as an adult…

Dude, it hurt like hell! (laughs) Exactly, it hurts more in case of older people than in case of children. I left with a smile, feeling just fine, because the local aenesthetics were still working. But at three in the morning I woke up and thought my head would split.

Why did you decide to have the surgery?

It hadn‘t really bothered me before, but I'm glad I went for it. Although some people tell me I'm no longer the Robert I used to be, that it was part of me. (smiles)

I‘d experienced dehonesting situations because of it, like when we were working on extreme right-wingers, hardcore Nazis, and they chanted "long-eared tractor driver" under my windows. Because I never tried to hide the fact that before joining the police, I used to work in agriculture.

Have you ever been really worried about your life?

I never admitted to myself that something could go wrong. Even though there were many shootings, car chases, we went all the way. But we always had a drink afterwards to celebrate that it turned out well, and we turned the page.

In Fast Confession, you mentioned that you used to sleep with a gun under your pillow, was it out of fear?

At that time I was in the intervention unit it was what I‘d been taught to do. It belonged to that way of life, I was ready to go into action 24/7. And the weapon was part of it, back then I couldn't imagine that I could live without it. But gradually, I began to spend more and more time in the office, and it turned into something else, it was more about administration and people management.

When you quit your job at the police and at customs, you moved to a village in Moravia. Is that something you wanted, you to become a villager?

It is not a village, but a small town, it has five thousand inhabitants! (laughs) I enjoy life in Moravia, I repaired my house and I take it as a chance to relax and enjoy my home. You know, I lived in a single room in a boarding house for 17 years, I was leaving for work at six in the morning and coming back at nine in the evening or later.

And did you cook for yourself in the boarding house?

No, I can't cook. Maybe eggs or tea. But it's fantastic today, there are fast foods everywhere, so I'm able to stop and have something to eat whenever I like.

How do you like to relax now?

I like working on the house the most. I arrange my garden, lay tiles and things like that. I fell off a ladder when I was painting and then I had to take a break to recover. (laughs) I really enjoy running and I also have this funny little car that I bought a few years ago. It's a Lotus Seven, and when the weather‘s warm, I take it for a ride.

Don‘t you find it‘s too much peace for you? Aren‘t you itching to do something?

I may have slowed down, but I do need to always be on the move. I don‘t know how to relax, I wouldn‘t even be able to go on vacation.

Your future partner really won‘t have it easy, being with such a restless man…

I guess a restless woman will have to approch me... (laughs)

Luxusní byt k pronájmu - Praha 1 - Nové Město
Luxusní byt k pronájmu - Praha 1 - Nové Město, Praha 1

Is it still true that in the Czech Republic, police officers are afraid to take a shot at a criminal, because they will then be torn apart in an investigation of such an intervention by the inspection?

Definitely. I think it's partly because the officials won't stand up for such a police officer and are unable to assure good conditions for him. It's also due to the social climate - when the police intervene, it's wrong, when they don't intervene, it's wrong again. No one will stand up for the police in those clear competences.

And then there are cases like the famous shooting on the circuit. At that time, it was a driver under the influence of drugs driving a stolen car. The police officer couldn't stop him, so he fired and hit a passenger, I think. It was taken to court, he was even convicted and later acquitted. Society has no idea of how the police perceive it. The police officer did the job he was supposed to do and did it well. And then he gets in trouble with law.

Since you worked at the police for such a long time, a lot of the people you arrested have already been released from prison. How do they treat you? Don't they want to confront you in person?

I must say that when I quit my job at the police in 2016, those who got out of prison treated me much better than anyone else. Many of them have written me supportive messages, saying we‘d always had balls and showed them respect, we were simply on the other side. In most cases, the criminals admitted that they‘d done some stupid things, and what we were doing was just police work. Whereas some of our superiors or politicians dragged us through dirt and kicked us when we were down.

Of course, I‘ve also experienced all kinds of slanders, threats, spitting, but every policeman has to get used to that. But being attacked by someone who came out of prison, that never happened to me.

In the near future, there will be events to promote the book, debates and signing sessions. Aside of that, I do have some offers and I am also considering politics, I‘m not going to hide that. But I'm still undecided on which path to take.

Aren't you afraid you'll be criticized for your political steps if you get in?

Anyone who decides to go into politics will be criticized. Criticism of politicians is very cheap, although they often deserve it. On the other hand, in my previous job, criticism was pretty much our daily bread, because you always stepped on someone's toes, and they rarely took it well. When you are involved in economic affairs and tax crimes, it's always a scramble.

So I'm used to criticism and I wouldn't have a problem with that. At the same time, politics is a job for citizens, it tempts me to close out a bill for citizens. Did you find me inspiring enough to vote for me again, or will I disappear in the abyss of history? There is no better way of evaluation, the perception of the citizens is always the purest.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Fast confession:

Do you sleep with a gun under your pillow?

There was a time when I used to. When I was in the response unit, I was in the front line. Towards the end, I was mainly doing office work, so you might have found a pen under my pillow then, but no weapons anymore.

A police officer's nightmare?

Any criminal activity you can‘t do anything against. In my case, a terrorist attack that we wouldn‘t know about in time and couldn‘t prevent. I thought about it many times, that was my nightmare.

Have you ever received a shell casing or some other threat by mail?

I used to get a lot of anonymous letters, really nasty once, I once got, a broken pencil, then there wear threats over the phone… But the people who threatens you and sends these things, usually don‘t really want to do anything to you. Those who remain silent and suddenly appear at the worst possible time are much worse.

What makes you the happiest?

I enjoy life, people are kind to me. I don't need much more to be happy.

Your favorite food?

Pizza and pasta. I'm into simple and lighter meals, so definitely not sirloin beef in cream sauce or a duck.

Three things that characterize a good cop?

The ability to want to work for the state and for people. The second thing is honesty and that he will never change sides. And the third is devotion to work, that he is able to give something extra from his privacy.

If you could change one thing about the police immediately, what would it be?

I would definitely replace some officials who like to take advantage of their position and torment their subordinates.

Did you go for a vacation every now and then, or could you never take a break from your investigations?

Back in my days at ÚOOZ, everyone knew I didn‘t go for vacations as a rule, I was a classic workaholic, constantly afraid that I‘d miss out on something. This year I was going to go on vacation for the first time, but unfortunately the situation around "Covid" didn‘t allow it. So I'll stay home again. (laughs)

Do you enjoy jokes about cops?

I like them a lot. And I like it when people make memes about me. I find it super funny and I like how crestive the Czech nation is. When something happens, it takes less than an hour for the jokes to start.

Which movie cop do you like the most?

Definitely James Bond.

What are your bad habits?

I spend all my time at work, I‘m stubborn, very demanding on people… Otherwise I don't smoke, I don‘t drink much, so from the personal ones, it's maybe that I‘ve been alone and single for a very long time, so it‘s hard for me to get close to a possible partner.

And what impresses you about women?

The fact that she's a woman alone. Every woman is beautiful. And also when a woman knows how to be independent, is smart and entertaining.

Are policewomen tough?

Everyone who‘s ever worked for the police will have encountered situations that the regular citizen will never encounter in everyday life. So it does leaves a mark on women too. But on the other hand, they are „hardened“ then and in many ways tougher than men.
Question by the interviewee for the editor:

What's your bad habit?

I often oversleep…
I don't have that problem!
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