war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

On Police Reform

Yevhen Zakharov
A brief description of the changes due to take place this year in the Ukrainian police force

In conditions of military conflict it is pointless to hope for sufficient funding for reforms. This applies also to the budget for the Interior Ministry where profound reform should now be taking place. The need for it is more than evident.

Last year the author of these words wrote about the Strategy for Police Reform which was passed by the Cabinet of Ministers on Oct 22, 2014, but was only made public at the beginning of December due to lengthy efforts to change it. It was asserted that the Strategy could launch long-awaited reforms of the police and Interior Ministry.

So how is the process of implementation coming on?

With difficulty, due to insufficient funding. And with the average pay in the Interior Ministry from 2.5 to 3.5 thousand UAH [per month] what serious changes could there be?

According to an anonymous survey of the staff of police stations in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa oblasts, 53% said that their income is enough only to eat, while another 22% said that it is not enough.

Asked what would be an adequate salary, 42% gave a figure for between 6, 500 and 13 thousand UAH, while almost one in three said from 13 to 19, 5 thousand UAH. Only 12% of those surveyed are able to work less than 50 hours a week, the others said that they work more, with 5% answering that they work more than 98 hours a week. 

Nonetheless, changes are not just due, but overdue. Criminal behaviour from police officers were one of the reasons for two Ukrainian revolutions – in 2004 and 2014.

Everybody is stressing the need for reform – the government, the public, and the law enforcement officers themselves.

At a time when there is a total shortage of resources, the Interior Ministry has adopted a policy of managerial staff reductions through introduction of new IT technology, removal of divisions which duplicate functions; restructuring of police stations; inclusion of expert and technical aid from the USA, European Commission, EU countries and other donors.

The National public platform: «Reform of police: transparency and responsibility» has been created.  Its 9 working groups, each made up of police officers; civic and foreign experts, are creating different parts of an action plan to implement the Strategy.

These include: optimization of the structure of the Interior Ministry and police stations; a new system for protecting public order; reorganization of the service of local police officers; division of the police into national and local; creation of a new system for assessment of a police station’s effectiveness; orientation of the work of police stations on communities, through introduction of models of community policing; development of procedures for internal and public monitoring and countering of corruption; change in staffing procedures; reform of departmental education; legislative provisions for all these changes.

The National Platform’s work is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation and the EU Consultative Mission.

The Action Plan should be considered by the Cabinet of Ministers in the Autumn. In parallel those parts of it which can be implemented already are being introduced.

For example, last year numbered safe-packages were introduced to keep the personal belongings of people detained, and detainees were given the opportunity to be informed of their rights and to approach the Legal Aid Centre to ask for a lawyer.

The practice is being drawn up for inclusion in the relevant normative document for engaging human rights activists in internal investigations into allegations of rights infringements by police officers. 

Pay for the staff of restructured divisions is being increased through the saving of public funding.  This principle has been adopted by the Ministry as basis on issues of pay.

For example, officers of the new patrol police created on the basis of the existing patrol-post service and the traffic police should receive 9-12 thousand UAH per month.

The new patrols will appear in Kyiv from June 1 if in May parliament passes the package of draft bills envisaging their creation and radical changes in the traffic police.

Since the beginning of this year on the basis of a competition and interviews, 2 thousand people have been selected from 33 thousand candidates. They are currently finishing their training.

In April the document gathering process began for such a competition in Odesa, Lviv and Kharkiv. If the legislative base is created, then the new patrols will begin working by the end of the year in those three cities and Dnipropetrovsk.

The joining of the patrol service and police was tried out as an experiment in Khmelnytsky from December 2014 – February 2015.  This made it possible to assess the need for cars, petrol, the number of staff, to work out patterns for patrolling, etc.

The main problem for the patrol service is known – the failure to react in good time to reports of crimes. As a result of this some members of the public do not even turn to the police, not believing in their ability to provide assistance.

In the first instance this applies to administrative offences and cases of domestic violence.

In order to change the situation, the time spent by a patrol at the place of an offence needs to be significantly reduced. To achieve this as part of the Lviv pilot project, an automated system for managing the patrols is being introduced.

This envisages the inputting by the 102 operator or person on duty in a police station of a single database for reports from the public, classification of the event and visualization on an electronic map, linked with the address and the time, as well as the sending of the nearest patrol to that place.

An electronic map of events linked with crimes or offences for a given area will thus be created.

This system should start in the Lviv oblast in June, and then after its check and approval, be extended to the entire country.  On the basis of this system the plan is to create a future nationwide 112 emergency service as part of the European 112 emergency service.

There will also be a nationwide child search service 116000 as part of the single European child search hot line 116000.

However under the existing police station structure, when there are one or two patrols over the area of the station, and the district inspector, and even investigators with operations staff, are involved in patrolling, the problem of effective protection of public order cannot be resolved.

In Lviv a new structure of Interior Ministry bodies has been drawn up according to which the number of police station employees involved in protection of public order is increased to 70% of the staff of the station, as envisaged by the Strategy.

In the police stations on average there will be 7 patrol officers covering the entire 24 hours, and patrol officers will have an 8-hour working day with two days off. In order to check these ideas, a normative base has been prepared and an experience begun in the Sambir city Interior Ministry department.

New procedures for control over road safety have been drawn up with these based on the use of video surveillance and radars.  In order to get used to these procedures, it is planned that each driver will receive 150 credit points as a beginning package. 

If offences are recorded by video or radar, these credit points will be removed. When they have run out, the person receives a fine.  The fine is doubled if not paid within 30 days, and if not paid within 60 days, the case is passed to State bailiffs.

Administrative penalties are imposed through an automated system and sent to the address where the car owner lives. This means that the owner is fined, not the driver who can lodge a claim to get the fine returned if it was another person to committed the offence.

Text messages notifying of administrative penalties are also envisaged. The offender will receive a link to the video where the offence is recorded and the password for access to it.

A person by giving personal data and the password can look up the short video clip with his or her own offence. After that the person either pays the fine or appeals against the penalty.

They have 10 days to appeal from the date when they were notified of the offence. They can either appeal to a higher-ranking administrative body or to the court, with the appeal stopping the clock from ticking as regards the fine.

The procedure is somewhat different if the patrol officers fine for the offence on the spot. If the person does not dispute the fine, the patrol officers’ car will have an electronic printer which allows the person to pay the fine by credit card, immediately receiving an electronic receipt, i.e. an electronic protocol of the offence.

It should be noted that the draft bill does not envisage a choice of fines, with one fine per offence proposed with this being the minimum fine at present.

In order to carry out these changes, the Interior Ministry has drawn up a package of four draft bills which have been tabled in parliament. The haste with which the draft bills were prepared is understandable: the window of possibilities is narrow and short.

However one cannot leave failings in the draft bills which contradict the principles of police reform. For example, it is difficult to accept the retention in the draft bill on the national police of a military system of ranks from lieutenant to colonel-general, or with the rejection of a competition procedure for appointments to some posts and the lack of innovation in the system of police education and professional training.

Nonetheless the draft bills can be passed in their first reading with subsequent rectification of the failings that are inevitable given the short amount of time spent on drawing them up.

We would finally point out that reform of police bodies depends not so much on drawing up and passing new laws, as on institutional changes and innovations which must be brought in and checked. Changes to legislation are needed for the legal provision of these changes and innovations. 

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