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Police Reform and Human Rights

Yevhen Zakharov
The article is devoted to the reasons for the inhibition of the police reform and the prospects for its continuation.

Reformation Progress


During 2014-2015, a number of conceptual changes were taking place in the principles and structure of activities and departments of the MIA. Since July 4, 2015, the newly created police patrol units in 32 Ukrainian cities began working in Kyiv; these units comprise over 13,000 police officers. 93% of new patrolmen had never done police work. There was a large entry for this job; they were trained for three months. They zeroed in on the change of priorities: The police patrols were targeted to protect the rights and interests of a man. The considerable pay rise was an essential element: from 8,000 to 11,000 UAH; in late 2015, the minimum wage made less than 2,000 UAH. The majority of MIA personnel--operatives, investigators, district militia officers etc.--received 3,000 to 4,000 UAH a month.

In parallel, in June and July 2015, the Sambir territorial units model was introduced; in August 2015, after the apparent success in Sambir, the model was extended to nine more district police departments in Lviv, Kyiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv oblasts. The effectiveness of this model was confirmed, and, in February 2016, the patrol police response units began to work in rural areas and towns in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, and, from July, in Khmelnytskyi and Volyn oblasts. Unlike the patrol police procedure, no competitions were held in the cities; new people were not recruited; so the former militia performed their duties. The Sambir experiment has showed that when the labor organization system changes and militia has friendly working conditions, the bulk of them start working much better and more efficiently.

The Law of Ukraine “On the national police” was passed by the Parliament on July 2, 2015 and enacted on November 7. The Cabinet passed the Resolution "On approval of the Statute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine” no. 878 on 26.10.2015.  These regulations have dramatically changed the police structure management. The inter-regional anti drug-crime units, economy protection, cybercrime combating departments which were intended to counter grave and especially grave crimes were created.

The international and national experts have pointed to significant progress in reforming Ukrainian police. Ukraine managed to do in just two years the package of reforms which took many European countries a decade to introduce. Police reform is considered as one of the most successful and dynamic of all reforms in the state. Within a short period of time they managed to raise the confidence level from 0.8% during post-Euromaidan period to 40.7% in midsummer 2016 (according to the Razumkov Center Survey). The police have changed from the punitive authority to the organ rendering service to the population. Radical changes in the police triggered a sharp increase in the appeals of citizens. On average, it has doubled in the cities where patrolling was introduced and sometimes it tripled. A similar situation is observed in areas where the patrol police rapid response units were set up.


Failures and Problems


However, we failed to avoid serious mistakes and blunders. Therefore we may admit that the re-certification of all personnel of the National Police of Ukraine, which was carried out in November 2015 through September 2016 was not commensurate with goals, i.e. to oust militiamen involved in corrupt actions or other offenses. The unfortunate assessment regulations failed to clearly define grounds for dismissal, which allowed all dismissed by decision of assessment commissions to return to their jobs after recourse to a court. However, assessment produced positive results as well: it exposed an unsatisfactory availability of qualified personnel and, consequently, low training efficiency at departmental higher educational establishments. Everyone had to pass two tests--the ability to think logically (General Skills Test) and knowledge of applicable laws. Unfortunately, nobody attained the pass rate of 30 points which is one half of the maximum. The tests being relatively simple, the majority of examinees got the average of 25 to 30 points. Therefore, the reform of departmental education system should become a priority in the future.

Due to lack of funds, the police officers who had passed the assessment didn’t get pay rise as promised. It was a bit paradoxical when former militiamen with more than 20-year record of service received 2-3 times lower salary than the new patrolmen had served a year or less after 3 months of training. Even the heads of district departments and chiefs of staff of oblast departments had lower wages. This led to mass layoffs of personnel, and in the early October, after equalization of salaries, the shortage of personnel made 30-40%. The withdrawal of specialists was especially sharply felt in rural areas. The reforms were unthinkable under such circumstances. It should be recognized that the 2016 reform of the police failed due to the lack of funding.

This leads us to the conclusion that under the conditions of the lack of funding it would be advisable to create a new patrol police only in 7 major cities (Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Odesa, Dnipro, Zaporizhia, and Kryvyi Rih) and introduce the Sambir model in all other cities.

The underfunding of police is a throughway to corruption. The territorial police departments do not get enough money to spend on the auto repair, office supplies without which they cannot fulfill their duties. This creates a special kind of corruption, which is not typical of the most European countries, and exists as a main component of the logistical support of the police. Police today is not able to discharge its responsibilities without shadow money, often corrupt, because after such aid rendered by undertakers, some local self-government authorities or public authorities leads to bias against certain categories of persons and impunity of others.

The situation can be reversed with proper budgeting of police and developing clear-cut mechanisms of refinancing police at the expense of a part of revenue from fines and a modicum of state support can make a difference. All other changes would not bring a positive result leading to the next rounds of corruption only.

The main strategy of reforms for 2017-2020 should include a two-lane action: further top-down reforming of MIA and the development of bedrock police units and bottom-up management.

The main trend of reforms in 2014-2016 included the top-to-bottom changes: from MIA to the central police management and then to the local organs. Though the major changes occurred within the first and second levels of management, much less changes took place within the main oblast police departments. The reforms slightly touched bottom levels and only in five oblasts of Ukraine they resorted to the Sambir model. The next step should include the extended reform of police departments and offices in direct contact with the public. The mistakes in upper-level reforms are best felt at the bedrock level. The squeeze in bedrock units was caused by errors of judgment concerning drugs control, economic and cyber crimes, logistical and financial support. The workload of the investigators and diminished authority of operatives led to a critical situation in the investigation of ordinary crimes. For the lack of forecasting and staffing reserve after the re-assessment the staffing level in some bedrock units was critical. This is especially noticeable in the investigative units; and worse they couldn’t be staffed during the following period (minimum 6 months) for objective reasons (screening and training candidates).

The Law of Ukraine "On the national police" only partially provided with understanding of the next steps of police expansion. However, it needed a number of related laws and regulations that had not been passed yet. These events stopped effective traffic control, messy situation emerged with the detention of persons and bringing them to the police, with escorting and keeping apprehended persons, assessing the level of trust to the police, public participation in control of the police and more.

The lack of coordination of activities of units and services in MIA on formation and use of departmental information systems and resources, absence of organizational unity and control in MIA prevents the introduction of common methodological, technical and organizational principles and approaches to new information systems, innovative information technology have negative impact on information exchange processes. The current level of computerization of MIA cannot effectively and timely meet the information needs of the public. However, the current level does not allow police officers to retrieve information from integrated databases. Today, almost half of the reports were "handwritten" and never were and cannot be objective.

The existence of two parallel databases recording crimes--the Unified Registry of Pre-Trial Investigations (URPTI) at the prosecutor’s office and IB "Statistics" in the MIA--results in the loss of information about criminal proceedings and people who were charged with the relevant suspicion. These databases must be both at the MIA and synchronized granting access to URPTI by prosecution.

Preservation of MIA old structure with 1000 of personnel is anachronistic, because with the creation of the National Police the functions of MIA will undergo radical changes.

The comparative analysis of the reforms carried out in Ukraine and OIA Development Strategy in Ukraine adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on October 22, 2014 shows a significant deviation in carrying out reforms. Some of the planned activities were dropped and some of them fulfilled only partially.

In general, we can conclude that in 2016 the system of police was unbalanced and brought to a critical condition.


Human Rights


The most of human rights violations by police observed by human rights activists concern arbitrary apprehensions, unlawful use of force, torture and ill treatment. It was the result of the absence of effective investigation of crimes and imperfection of detention.

The occurrence of torture and abuse remains a problem. A study conducted by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research in the framework of KhHRG project in 2015 in five regions of Ukraine not affected by armed conflict showed significant reduction in the number of cases of the use of torture by police officers. The estimated violations number for one year as compared with 2011, when the previous survey was performed, was halved: from 980,000 (604,000 at the time of detention) to 409,000 (157,300 at the time of detention). The same with the estimated number of victims of torture: from 113,000 to almost 63,000. The factors influencing the reduction of torture by the police were caused by the institutional changes: the new CPC and development of free legal aid. The need to take permission of an investigating judge to perform detention significantly reduced the number of apprehension and consequent reduction of illegal actions during the arrest. Another effective norm of the new CPC consists in rejection by the court of evidence obtained illegally. The possibility to turn to a free legal aid center and participation of a lawyer in the interrogation of a detainee became a serious protection against unlawful violence. But all the same, the above figures are very large, and forming of abuse zero tolerance is an important task of police training.

In European countries, a person arrested by the court in exceptional cases only can be kept at the police detachment again. In the most countries of Europe the police can keep an arrestee at the station for a minimum period of time only. In the UK, the keeping of a person in police establishments of detention is an indicator of the effectiveness of the police and the shorter it is the higher is the efficiency of a unit. In our case a same person arrested by a court to participate in the court sessions is regularly delivered to the police department, where s/he is kept for 10 days; during such extended detention s/he contacts the investigators and operatives, which creates an objective precondition for police to influence a person. In addition, the stay of such persons in places of detention leads to police impact upon persons first arrested, which may result in psychological or even physical violence conducted by long-timers. The places of detention are not defined as places of punishment, so there may arise a legal conflict if a person over a long period of time (for example, 10 days per each of 6 times) is kept in a temporary detention cell being arrested, how this time should be taken into account in the summary term of her/his sentence? Another negative factor is the need to finance the cost of ensuring sanitary conditions for detainees, maintenance of vehicles, regular special transport, and financing both material and human resources for escorting and protection of such persons. Due to inadequate provision of resources the police have to reallocate resources to maintain public order and combating crime to finance the upkeep people who actually should have been kept at other agencies (Ministry of Justice) like in all developed European countries. It appears that the police carry out functions not envisaged by the Law of Ukraine "On the national police" concerning escorting and upkeep of detainees spending the resources allocated for the maintenance of public safety and combating crime. Although the detainees might well be kept in pretrial detention centers and not at the provisional detention wards.

In this regard it should be noted that the police departments do not use the cells for detainees and forcedly brought. That is, the authority of European police cannot be applied here due to the lack of legal framework, and police in Ukraine is held responsible for the aspects which are beyond the empowerment of European police, such as keeping of detainees despite the lack of norms in the law "On the national police”. However, the country has a large number of half-empty and even empty unused penal institutions.

Therefore, the legislation should differentiate power concerning the detained and arrested persons and optimize institutions for holding detainees and persons subjected to administrative arrest. Their number should be axed from 388 to 147. This system of institutions was reassigned to the Department of human rights guarantees under the National Police set up in 2016.

This department consists of two parts--special institutions and human rights. The department of special institutions includes all institutions of confinement under the National Police, which under the law are expected to keep in custody detainees and those under administrative arrest while the Department of Human Rights has to perform the following functions: firstly, to monitor the human rights situation in the activities of agencies and departments subordinate to the National police, to detect and resolve within its competence problems arising during the interaction of the police and the public, and, secondly, provides organizational, regulatory and methodological support for the agencies and departments subordinate to NP concerning the rights of detained and arrested persons during their stay in remand-and-convoy prisons, controls the said institutions and special guards units. The staff of the department of human rights should conduct internal investigations of cases of human rights violations by the NP personnel, promptly informs the Office of human rights guarantees of the NPU salient cases related to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the agencies and units subordinate to the NPU, organize and conduct training of personnel and departments of the NPU on human rights and fundamental freedoms, considers appeals of citizens about human rights violations by NPU agencies and units, receives citizens, including receptions in the field. In 2016, the human rights activists participated in the screening of personnel for the central office of the Department for human rights and for its regional offices and the Office set to work. It is too early now to evaluate its efficacy. We note only that it would be appropriate to conduct official investigations of human rights violations by the NPU personnel outside the National Police of Ukraine.

A stand-alone activity includes the development of an algorithm of actions intended to control peaceful meetings and ensure the right to freedom of speech, expression and belief. The police units should undergo special training to ensure human rights during their service activity. The instances of force and coercion during such events should be clearly regulated by statutory requirements; in the vast majority of cases they should be sanctioned and carefully considered by the chiefs of police together with other control agencies and obligatory participation of the public. Actually, the parliament should have adopted a law on freedom of assembly foreseeing all situations the police have to deal with during peaceful assembly.


The Second Start


After the balanced remuneration system in the National Police began operating in October 2016, there emerged new openings for the reforms, though the shortage of personnel should be dealt with in the first place. To my mind, for the start, we should draft as soon as possible the second version of the National Police Strategy that addresses the above circumstances.

First of all, the unchanged criminal unit needs to be reformed. It needs adoption of a ready bill on criminal offenses which would halve the burden on investigators. For 50% of all offenses entered in the URPTI are in fact criminal offenses, which will not be entered in the URPTI and will be investigated in a simplified manner. Another improvement includes introduction of criminal detective unit combining functions of operatives and investigators, like in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

The prevention departments and patrol police should be united on the principles of patrol police. The community policing model in the broadest sense of the words should be introduced. The police and community should interact horizontally. This concerns the rapid response groups who will work closely with the district police officer. The Sambir model of territorial police agencies should be introduced throughout the country, creating one rapid response team per 25,000 of population and one district police officer will work in the territory inhabited by 7,000—10,7000 people.

Provided sufficient funding, the second start of the reforms may give more successful results.




1. The Sambir model of territorial police agencies should be introduced throughout the country, creating one rapid response team per 25,000 of population and one district police officer will work in the territory inhabited by 7,000—10,7000 people.

2. To pass a bill on criminal offenses with clear specification which units of the National Police will investigate the offenses.

3. To establish the institute of investigators that combine functions of operatives and investigators.

4. To transfer the URPTI keeping to the MIA providing for the prosecutors access to it.

5. To create the Office of Human Rights in the MIA to conduct internal inquiry on allegations of illegal actions by the National Police and other central executive bodies, whose activities are coordinated by the MIA.

6. To create the MIA unified data system of the Interior Ministry as a joint integrated information environment that combines departmental resources of MIA and services (units) whose activities are coordinated by the MIA.

7. To implement in the MIA and the central executive bodies coordinated by the MIA the quality control system based on the requirements of international standard of ISO 9001 series.

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