One Step Closer to Real Police Reform
On Oct 22 Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers adopted a Police Reform Development Strategy drawn up by the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and the Centre of Law Enforcement Research [CLEAR]
According to Oleh Martynenko, head of CLEAR, this is a vital step. “For the first time in the last 17 years a conceptual normative act has been adopted on police reform, and one that was drawn up by the human rights community!”. It’s work ahead for us all, he adds.
That Ukraine’s law enforcement system is in urgent need of far-reaching reform does not need to be proven. The situation was in every way worsened under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, culminating in the collaboration between police and ‘titushki’ or government-hired thugs in crushing peaceful protest during EuroMaidan and the deployment of special unit Berkut snipers who gunned down protesters in February 2014. Most of the features that enabled such degradation of the law enforcement system began much earlier. The authors of the Development Strategy point out that by the end of EuroMaidan, a survey carried out by the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Sociology found that trust in the police had fallen to 0.8 %. This was not, however, as steep a fall as it might sound with trust before EuroMaidan between 3 and 5%.
The entire system is in need of a major overhaul. The key changes needed are seen in the reform goals set out in the Development Strategy.
Optimization of Interior Ministry structure
At present the staffing level of the Interior Ministry is nearly double that recommended as optimum by the UN. The system is slow and unwieldy, with many functions duplicated.
Rule of Law
The problems making these two goals so crucial have always overlapped, but the situation became critical under the Yanukovych administration where top posts in all oblasts were given to people from Yanukovych’s own Donetsk oblast. The overt use of police for political ends began in 2010. Traffic police, for example, were frequently used to prevent protesters or even, on one occasion, believers from the Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate reaching Kyiv. They were also increasingly used in large numbers to forcibly disperse peaceful protest. All of this reached its tragic peak during EuroMaidan.
Accountability and transparency
The authors stress that the police must answer before the law, not to politicians. Obviously the more transparent the system, the easier it is to monitor any illegitimate pressure brought to bear on law enforcement bodies.
Openness to public scrutiny and monitoring is vital.
Cooperation with the public
Human Resources optimization
A major factor in improving the work of the police and public confidence in them proper recruitment with criteria and procedure both needing careful work. There also need to be proper incentives for police personnel, with benefits, etc.
The authors of the Development Strategy make initial proposals for achieving these goals.
They envisage the process continuing through 2018. 2015/16 will be needed for legislative measures to implement the reforms, as well as pilot schemes for many of the proposed changes. Important initiatives will be taken on developing public monitoring, as well as greater cooperation between the police and public through neighbourhood watch schemes, work with vulnerable groups, etc.