Uniform and Reform: How Has the Patrol Police Changed in Two Years?

February 22, 2018
Their average response time is seven minutes. The people working here are mostly young and new to the system. They are criticized for violating traffic rules and lacking experience. Still, they are happy when they do not have to use shackles during their shift and when they open criminal cases for an attempt to offer a bribe. The patrols of Volyn Oblast will explain why the first excitement from night patrol gradually vanishes, which cases are considered on a daily basis, and what has changed so far in the training process for newcomers to the Patrol Police.

Let's get back in time to 2014. Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies are still regulated by the Law of Ukraine "On Militia" dating back to 1990, the police are corrupted and politicized, and each minister in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine becomes a puppet in the hands of the newly-elected President. Events in Vradiivka (Mykolayiv Oblast, summer 2013) and on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in 2013-2014 unequivocally discredit law-enforcement agencies in the eyes of many Ukrainians.

In July 2015, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament) adopted the law "On National Police" (on the establishment of the National Police of Ukraine). The reform was expected to radically change law- enforcement agencies: demilitarize and depolitize the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and the police as a whole, clear out corruption, dismiss bodies that duplicate the functions of others, to introduce the European model of police training, and guarantee public trust.

Within the framework of the reform, the widest publicity was gained by the creation of the new Patrol Police. This process was headed by renowned Georgian reformers – the former acting Minister of the Internal Affairs of Georgia Eka Zguladze and the former head of the Police Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia Khatia Dekanoidze. Eka Zguladze held the post of the first deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, and Khatia Dekanoidze was appointed the Chief of Ukraine's National Police in December 2014.

Citizens of Kyiv saw the first new patrol police in July 2015. Two thousand people were selected from the 17,000 wanting to join the new Patrol Police. They started to patrol after undergoing three months of training. The core two functions of the Patrol Police are those of precinct policemen and police inspectors. The salary at that time was UAH 8,000-10,000, which was significantly higher than the country's average. The Patrol Police were provided with new cars and their uniform resembled the one worn by American police officers. They also had badges. The average response time had to be 3-5 minutes. Gradually, the new patrol police was established in more than 30 cities. A total of 12,000 currently work in the Patrol Police.

Starting from autumn 2015, another stage of the reform began, re-certification of personnel of all law-enforcement agencies, after which 5.8% of the old staff were dismissed. The remaining 94% successfully passed the re-certification. Additionally, as experts note, certification is blocked by courts and lustration is often limited to merely transferring a worker to another post.

However, according to specialists and international partners, the accomplishments of reform of law-enforcement include the creation of the KORD Special Forces unit and service centers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, introduction of reforms, and the gradual transfer of the Migration Service to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine. Undoubtedly, the crucial step is regarded as the creation of the Patrol Police, to which many new people came.

How the Patrol Police functions today and its problems and accomplishments will be discussed on the basis of the example of Volyn Oblast.

Police Response Time of New Patrols Will Be Faster

On 19 December 2017, the Patrol Police of Lutsk celebrated its second anniversary. At the same time, on this day, fifty new members of the police workforce took the oath. It was the first time in the two years of existence of the Lutsk Patrol Police that new police officers had joined its ranks. During this time, some inspectors left their posts while others were transferred into administrative management or other police units. As a result, there has been an increase in the workload, so the new patrols were greatly anticipated by their colleagues.

"I can understand those who leave the police force after finding something better in financial terms with regard to providing for their families. All of our employees are young people who sooner or later will have their own children," says Oleksandr Vovchenko, the head of the Patrol Police Department in Volyn Oblast. "However, the contribution of those who remain will not be appraised today or in a year. The reform is in progress and demands great effort and endurance from us. Still, despite the circumstances, we should preserve our human nature so that our children are not be ashamed of us."

The city's population also awaited the new Patrol Police. Often, after calling the 102 service, people had to wait for more than an hour for the police to come due to the absence of a free crew. Only after some police officers became available, was the police dispatcher able to immediately send them another task.

"Really, the average response time of the Patrol Police in 2016 was six minutes, in 2017 – seven minutes. The future response time is expected to become faster as the number of crews has increased. One should understand that if the patrol is close to the place of destination, it can arrive even in two minutes. On the contrary, if there are only 3-4 of free crews and the call comes from another part of the city, it can take up to 20 minutes for the patrols to reach their destination," explains Serhii Badalian, an inspector of the monitoring department.

The new patrols were supposed to supplement police personnel quantitatively, demonstrate better results in hot pursuit of law violations and, after strengthening the personnel, restore the confidence of the citizens of Lutsk that their service is trustworthy.

The police newcomers were trained longer and more effectively: the length of the training period was increased from three to four months. Besides, their colleagues from the Patrol Police came to them on a daily basis in order to work together on different scenarios that could occur during patrol work. During the last month of training, police officers underwent practical training on the streets. Particularly, they had to deal with specific situations such as detention of drivers who were violating traffic rules, chasing thieves, and countering the consumption of alcohol in public places.

After the very first night patrol, Inspector Serhii Dynkovskyi was full of enthusiasm, saying that, "It was cool! I had a lot of positive emotions. I did not want to sleep at all."

Expectations and reality

Police officers who already have two years of work experience warn that such excitement will not last for long. What they are being taught in theory has little to do with what can actually happen in practice. The new policemen were trained by American and Canadian instructors who trained them according to their techniques. Still, the instructors failed to consider Ukrainian realities that have not changed much over these years.

First and foremost, the new patrols had to save people from suicide attempts and freezing in the streets, as well as help victims of road accidents, stop fights between neighbors and relatives, and arrive for cases of disturbances. Moreover, the police registered numerous cases of traffic rules violations. Almost every violator pleaded for a warning instead of a fine, many violators even threatened the police or used physical force. There were also those who offered bribes. Lutsk police officers claim that they never agreed to such offers and that, on the contrary, such persons were prosecuted. Almost 20 similar cases have been registered.

Patrol police officers in Lutsk claim that they respond to all calls that come to the 102 service. A brief report has to be prepared for each task. If this is not done, specialists of the monitoring department carry out an inspection. They monitor the quality of work of their colleagues and respond to the requests of citizens.

"If the day passes calmly and there is no need to use the handcuffs or raise my voice, I am pleased, so it means that the shift passed successfully and I return home with the feeling of fulfilled duty," says Dmytro Shturma, an inspector of the monitoring department.

Neighborhood Watch" and "Living Library" for Increasing Public Confidence

In order to increase the public's trust, Volyn patrols have implemented several projects. One of them is the "Neighborhood Watch," which is already operating in a few Ukrainian cities and is supported by international donors.

"We tell people that, if the territory of their condominiums is facilitated with lighting, the yard is repaired, entrances are equipped with code locks, and surveillance cameras are provided, then the territory is 90% out of reach for criminals. On the other hand, if the yard is weed-filled, the entrance is dark and dirty, and the residents are not acquainted with each other, then it is virtually impossible to find a potential car thief," admits Serhii Tsyhuliov, commander of the fourth unit.

Another project sponsored by international partners is Community Policing. "In Lutsk, the project was won by five public organizations, which are 'ambassadors of positive information' about the patrol police. They carry out a variety of events encouraging the participation of law-enforcement agents. One such well-known event is the 'Living Library,' which enables people to talk to police officers in a relaxed atmosphere and see that they are also ordinary people," says Olha Shmihel, a Public Relations officer.

Police reform is also supported by local business. With the assistance of patrons, a number of events were held to popularize the police service. For example, videos were filmed and a football match was held. Currently, high popularity is gained by security lessons, during which children make "flickers", which are light-reflective elements that help one to be seen in the dark more easily.

Besides, the Ukrainian "KERUI" campaign is becoming more popular, whose main aim is to teach drivers responsibility on the road and respect towards other drivers. In particular, the patrols are distributing special stickers among drivers with the words "cool driver," "reliable driver," "I'm driving offline."

"With such a sticker, it is shameful to violate traffic rules, but the main aim is different – the move serves to draw attention to the safety of drivers and the value of human life. In Lutsk, drivers need to turn to Patrol Police Office if they want to get such a sticker. A check is then run in the database s to whether they have any violations. Stickers are also distributed during outdoor events. It should be trendy and correct not to violate the rules," says Andrii Perekhodko, inspector of the third company.

The fact that Patrol Police officers had to deal with drunk drivers more and more often prompted them to prepare special social videos. Together with the local filming group, two video clips were shot about the consequences of driving in a state of alcohol intoxication (1. Childhood without future, 2. The Killer).

Two Years Ago Nobody Believed in Us

Nowadays, there are approximately 300 police officers, most of whom are under the age of 30, in the Volyn Patrol Police. Almost 10% are women. Another 10% consist of those police officers who previously worked in agencies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A total of 47 policemen have the status of participant in hostilities (PIH).

"Two years ago nobody believed in us. Skeptics claimed that we are good just for taking selfies, but over these years the patrols have gained more experience, courage, and, most importantly, haven't lost their best qualities. They rescue and assist, never stay on the sidelines, never remain indifferent, and join social movements," emphasizes Oleksandr Vovchenko, the Head of the Patrol Police Department in Volyn Oblast. "Neither the status of violators, nor money or 'behind the scenes influence' matter to our police officers. No state institution has such level of confidence and trust as the Patrol Police. Nowadays, it's approximately 50%, and at the level of Lutsk, a whole 70%, and we will keep up this level."

Former law-enforcement officers and legal experts currently criticize the new Patrol Police for violating traffic rules, road accidents involving police cars, the lack of experience, problems with recruitment and professional training. Still, there are figures that prove the opposite.

In the security passport, presented by local social activists in November 2017, it is stated that, according to an sociological survey, 67% of Lutsk citizens felt safe.

Dmytro Mandziuk, a Lutsk resident and inspector of the second company, made it through the war in Donbas: "I am pleased to be involved in the process of bringing order to this city. I like to live and work here. It is nice when people understand and trust. There's often been a need to arrive in response to a call when a person wants to commit suicide, but in all cases I have managed to talk with the person and calm them down. Then you feel calmer yourself as you've managed to dissuade someone from harmful actions, advise something, and prevent fatal outcomes."

Lutsk patrols operate not only in the oblast center but in suburban areas too

The process of broadening the powers of the Patrol Police is currently in progress: in particular, city administrations have been renamed into oblast administrations. From the beginning of summer 2017, Lutsk patrols operate not only in the oblast center but also on suburban roads. The results are already evident: in the course of 2017 the number of fatal car accidents was reduced by one third.

The reforms continue: rapid response teams operating in oblast centers are already undergoing training in departments and learning how to respond to 102 calls in a faster and more effective way. The security police are also being reorganized and it will be responsible for servicing calls from this line.

In early February, the Patrol Police Department appeared in Kovel (Volyn Oblast). Forty local patrols and 50 more patrols from other regions will work here. It was emphasized that with the increase in the number of Patrol Police personnel, the area subject to patrolling will also expand. It is planned that the operations of patrols will be extended to the entire territory of Volyn Oblast by the end of 2018.

This article has been first published at The Reforms Guide

Olha Buzuluk, Dmytro Zinchuk and Oksana Viter

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