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National monitoring of unlawful violence in police in Ukraine in 2020. Summary

04.01.2021
Denys Kobzin, Andrew Chernousov, Svitlana Shcherban

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group jointly with the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research carried on a research in order to provide a comparative analysis of opinions of ordinary citizens and police officers on the scale of spread of unlawful violence in police activity. The research was aimed at studying the following problems: analyses the attitude towards the problem of unlawful violence in police and its admissibility; studies the opinion of Ukrainians on the dynamics of change in this area in recent years, the causes of unlawful violence and possible ways of improvement of the situation; compares the data for 2004–2020. For the first time it examines the gender-based aspect of unlawful violence and the problem of spread of discrimination of women in the police.

It was the eighth sociologic research of this nature (previous researches conducted in 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2018. The conclusions and recommendations of the research contain the specific recommendations on preventing the unlawful violence through institutional changes in police activity. Results of the sociological research have published in the book National monitoring of unlawful violence in police in Ukraine in 2020 in Ukrainian and in English.

The following methods of monitoring and information collecting have been used:

– survey of the population of five regions of Ukraine (3 000 persons in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Vinnitsya and Odesa regions) by the method of structured interview at the place of residence of the respondent;

– survey of 2 120 police officers by the method of questionnaires using original tools.

Key conclusions are as follows.

1. Most of the respondents assessed the police as inefficient – it was indicated by 56,2 %. It should be noted that in comparison with 2018 national research the number of people dissatisfied with the police increased by 3,5 %.

2. Among the police officers the police reform is considered successful only by every third patrol policeman (32 %) and 13,9 % of the representatives of other police units. The number of people who believe the reform to be a failure is greater among the police in general (58,5 %), and among patrol officers (37,7 %). Almost every fourth said that the reform is not finished yet.

3. The research demonstrated the total spread of overwork of the police officers and the lack of compensation for it. Most of all interviewed police officers in one way or another do not believe their wages to be sufficient for support of normal level of living (patrol officers – 93,8 %, other police officers – 93,9 %). Most police officers do not have their own residence (patrol officers – 62,6 %, other police officers – 54,9 %). The above-mentioned work conditions force most of the police officers to consider resignation, in particular, every fifth officer plans to resign within a year (patrol officers – 22,3 %, other police officers – 17,8 %). Like ten years ago, the rights of the police officers to decent work conditions are constantly violated, their satisfaction with work decreases, the people burn out and it becomes a significant factor of neglect of citizens’ rights in the future.

4. In 2020 once again no systemic measures were taken to improve the situation – neither the changes in law enforcement activity, nor the changes in the system of indicators. The system of investigation of cases of unlawful violence in the police was not changed, neither was the system of professional selection and training of the police officers.

5. Assessing the general tendencies of unlawful violence (beatings, tortures, intimidation) in the police, most of the respondents (51,8 %) indicated that they believed such cases spread. After a small decrease in the number of such cases in 2018 the scale of this phenomenon returned to the indicators of past years and constituted over 698 000 a year. The estimated number of cases of beating and infliction of bodily injuries during the arrest has also increased and constituted, accordingly, 559 140, and the number of cases of use of unlawful violence during the investigation doubled and constituted 419 355 cases a year. At the same time almost 100 000 people are subjected to various kinds of tortures (ranging from hurting and torture with thirst or non-provision of medical assistance) every year.

6. Dozens of police officers from among those who got in the sample said that in recent 12 months they witnessed the cases of beatings, infliction of suffering ad torture many times, and 78 – that those happened once. The police officers who witnessed the ill-treatment said that most often the victims are subjected to beatings, bodily injuries, insults and degrading treatment. However, at the same time the opinion of the police officers about the spread of unlawful violence is significantly different from the opinion of the population. Thus, it is considered “very widespread” by less than one percent of the police officers, and the number of those who believe that the violence is rather spread does not exceed 5 %. Over a half of the police workers believe that unlawful violence in the police is not a spread phenomenon.

7. The most important factor that influences the spread of unlawful violence in the police is the lack of system of effective investigation of such cases, as well as the lack of full and objective statistical data about that phenomenon. The current system of data collection is locked on the state authorities which work in the conditions of the conflict of interests. Most of the persons whose rights were violated by the police (72,9 %) never filed official complaints. Thus, the system of investigation and collection of complaints about the police is not trusted and used. Therefore, the work of the State Bureau of Investigations and Prosecutor General’s Office cannot be called efficient – they work with a small number of cases of violence and do not even know the full picture.

8. A significant part of society (59,7 %) believes that practically any person on the territory of Ukraine regardless of their past and personal characteristics is at risk of becoming a victim of torture or ill-treatment in the police. The police officers themselves have a completely different opinion on this. In total around a half of interviewed police officers believe that nobody risks tortures and ill-treatment by the police, this opinion is more popular among the police officers (55,5 %), than patrol officers (44,9 %).

9. Comparative analysis of the researches of 2004–2020 shows that after resonant events in Kaharlyk the intolerance of the population to the cases of torture or other ill-treatment in Ukrainian police increased greatly and constitutes 79,1 %. This is the highest indicator for the entire period of research. At the same time, it should be noted that 14,9 % of the respondents accept the use of unlawful violence in extreme cases, 5,4 % – against particular persons (terrorists and persons suspected of crimes against children). A small number of people (1,1 %) believe that the work of the police is impossible without it.

10. Most of the interviewed police officers believe that the use of beatings, bullying or torture by the police officers with the aim of solving and investigating the crimes is unacceptable under any circumstances. There are somewhat more patrol officers with such position (79,1 %) than other police officers (71,4 %). At the same time every ninth patrol officer believes that unlawful violence is acceptable “in extreme cases”; this indicator is higher among the police officers – every fifth officer believes so.

11. The indicators that contribute the most to the spread of the practice of unlawful violence in the activity of Ukrainian police, according to the respondents, are: 1) impunity of the police officers who use unlawful methods in their work; 2) poor selection of the candidates; 3) low professional and cultural level of police officers.

12. To prevent the unlawful violence in the police the respondents suggest: 1) a stricter punishment of the police officers for the facts of unjustified violence, cruelty, torture; 2) improvement of the selection of candidates for police work; 3) improvement of the training of police officers and improvement of efficiency of management control over the activity of the subordinates. Among the main ways of overcoming the unlawful violence the police officers themselves indicated the observance of rights of the police officers (28,4 %) and a complete change of the system of indicators and reporting in the police activity (21,2 %), and the latter was mostly emphasized by police officers and not patrol officers.

13. There are significant additional risks of police violence against women, in particular it concerns those who contact the police as a suspect or witness, as well as female police officers. During the survey of the population, we have detected 110 cases (6,8 %), when the police officers subjected women to gender-based violence in one form or another. Selective survey of men and women working in the police allowed to detect over two hundred cases of women becoming the victims of gender-based violence by the police officers. But it is apparent that the scale of this phenomenon is much wider.


EC Project “Making Ukraine resistant to torture, ill-treatment and impunity”

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