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The political fight for control of the new “Police” begins?

July 12, 2015

Two rather pointed entries have been published here recently relating to the new “Police” in Kyiv  – and soon to be in Odessa (and elsewhere).

Before continuing, a few key quotes that you author knew would inevitably arise, and arise swiftly:

“The new thin blue line must also have the group ethic to withstand the inevitable attempts to subjugate it to political expediency. Its loyalty is not to the President, nor the Cabinet of Ministers, nor the Interior Minister – for they will come and go during a 30 year (or so) career.

The new thin blue line has a loyalty to the public from whence they came, and to whom they serve. They have a loyalty to the rule of law, whilst holding a certain amount of personal discretion when enforcing it – or not.

Will the new service have the ethical fortitude to stand its ground before those that have created it and refuse to bow before political expediency or interference?”

And

“Even allowing for most glitches in the recruitment and training system to have been solved with the pilot project in Kyiv, it is entirely unrealistic to make such a statement on 8th July and expect by September, to have recruited and vetted the top quality candidates from the masses that may apply, and then to have trained them sufficiently in the laws and statutes that they will enforce, conflict management, self defence and detention techniques, the limitations of discretion, interview techniques, what is (or is not) “reasonable suspicion”, what to do (or not) at crime scenes, evidence chains and their integrity, how to take a witness statement and get the most from a witness, learning to read NVCs, the required paperwork/bureaucracy for any incident, driver training, first aid, firearms training (if applicable), negotiation skills, public (dis)order, (your author could go on), whilst protecting the integrity of the whole kit and caboodle from the “interests” in Odessa seeking to infiltrate and pervert the outcomes – and expect to produce a real society changing quality “Police”, regardless of how morally courageous and upright the candidates may be.

How often does the opportunity to start a police service from scratch occur? When creating one in Ukraine what is the ultimate aim? One that rebuffs corruption but is otherwise under-trained for its role in society and the legal system? If so then there will be a success (hopefully one with sustainability).

If however, the aim is to maximise this opportunity, then surely creating a police service that rebuffs corruption and is thoroughly trained for (at the very least) “first officer attending” general policing purposes, more than adequately versed in its powers and limitations, then 6 months training rather than 3 months training brings with it enormous benefits – and with it not only a reduction in police corruption, but also the standard of general policing. Should this not be the aim?”

Thus it comes speedily to pass that Prime Minister Yatseniuk and Kyiv Mayor Klitschko have already joined battle publicly over what the new Kyiv “Police” should be doing.

The political spat being essentially over illegal traders in Kyiv.

Mayor Klitschko is of the opinion that the new “Police” should be active in combating illicit trade (and thus curtailing tax avoidance to the City coffers over which he presides).  The Prime Minister is of the belief that the new city “Police” should be otherwise engaged.

Naturally there is a need for any police service to liaise with the local government within whose boundaries it polices.  Where possible it will naturally try and accommodate the concerns of the local authorities amongst its policing priorities and local area policing plans (which should exist) – but it is not subservient to the will of politicians over and above policing priorities.  Any police service worthy of the name is a-political and subservient to the laws it enforces and the goodwill of the public that it requires to effectively police within.

There is an a-political balance to maintain between the State and the constituency within and whilst impartially upholding the rule of law.

The political spat in Kyiv raises the following question – what is the official policing policy for the new “Police”?  It is hopefully not to officially “muddle through somehow” and ebb and flow with the political tide.

Where is written policy (it is not published anywhere your author could find in Ukrainian, Russian or English)?

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With a published policy or a published official guidelines document, the parameters and responsibilities of the new “Police” would be clear, and thus it would be clear as to which of these two politicians is correctly interpreting what the new “Police” should be doing (or not) – or at least what is within their remit to do, even if they are not doing it.

The second question is whether the new Kyiv “Police” are the agency to deal with illicit trading at all?

Should it not be a trading standards body, the State Fiscal Service, the city council or others?  What powers do the new “Police” have regarding illicit trading?  Do they have the power to seize the goods?  Do they have the power of arrest?  Is it an arrestable offence?  If so, is it arrestable only if “found committing”, and otherwise “reportable” for the purposes of a court summons?

Do the constituents of Kyiv expect the new “Police” to be carrying out general day to day policing, or dealing with illicit trading and tax avoidance?

Is illicit trading a policing priority or a political priority?  They are not the same thing.

If it is to be a responsibility of the new “Police, have the officers been adequately trained in their powers of search and seizure, and the subsequent procedures for possibly various prosecution routes?

If it is a new “Police” responsibility, should it be?  Were they created to do the work that the State Fiscal Service (or others) could do?

If there is a role for the new “Police” regarding illicit trading, it would seem wise to limit it to one of insuring there are no breach of the peace/public (dis)order issues when the more relevant agencies do their jobs regarding illicit trading.  That and insuring there is no obstruction to the roads of Kyiv, or that any obstruction is managed by traffic control when kiosks are removed.

Further, that policing role should also police those State agencies enforcing court orders/agencies directives when knocking flat illegally erected/unlicensed kiosks etc.  A court order/institutional order by a State agency to act, does not mean they can use whatever force they wish.  Unnecessarily battering unlicened traders under the on-looking eye of the new “Police” would not be acceptable.  The police are there to insure that only reasonable force in the circumstances is used (and no more).  Anything other than what is deemed reasonable by the officers at the scene becomes criminal even if it is the agents of a State institution that are at fault and thus must be “advised” or arrested.

The State monopoly on force must itself be policed to insure it is used responsibly rather than gratuitously.

It is not for the Mayor of Kyiv, nor the Prime Minister of Ukraine, to micromanage the policing of the new “Police”.  The police may, and indeed should liaise, confer over specific issues, with the authorities, but the independent integrity of the new “Police” is not something to be fought over by two Ukrainian politicians in the public realm.  Quality policing is independent of such petty political issues.

As policing powers and responsibilities are granted and controlled  by the laws they enforce, there seems to be something of an absence of understanding over what laws they are responsible for enforcing – and equally as disturbing, the extent of control the political class believe they should have over an a-political police service.

It is impossible to adequately train an officer in relevant laws (and statutory defences) for their responsibilities, if those responsibilities are not defined or continually expanding beyond their training.  To ask them to deal with laws outside of their trained competence is entirely unfair on the officers, the victims/complainants, society, and the offenders.  There are no winners in such circumstances.

As it is overwhelmingly in the interest of society for an a-political, competent and corruption-less new “Police” to succeed, it is surely in society’s interest to defend that new “Police” bureaucratically through transparent, robust policy manuals/documents/guidelines too.

It is surely not a good investment of $ tens of millions to turn out a shinny new police service with ever expanding responsibilities that they are partly/not trained to do, whilst remaining politically manipulated/controlled – for what you then may end up with is little more than an expedient reassurance patrol/traffic warden that doesn’t take bribes.

To clarify matters, and clarify them transparently, one is left to wonder where the official policing policy and official policing guidance documents are that necessarily should have arrived at the same time as the new “Police” were created.

Until there is such clarity, political battles (perceived or otherwise) over control of the new “Police”, and what they should, or should not be doing, would seem to be something that will continue – even if (more sensibly) behind closed doors in the future.

It is perhaps time to publicly address the issue of policing policy, if for no other reason than to protect the newest law enforcement creation.

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