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The new “Patrol Police” begin – Odessa

August 25, 2015

On 25th August, perhaps fittingly, the first 392 officers of new “Patrol Police” take their oath and are subsequently unleashed upon the (diving) public of Odessa, at the statue of Armand Emmanuel Sophie Septimanie de Vignerot du Plessis – better known as the (5th) Duke Richelieu.  The remainder of the 800 Patrol Police officers do so next month.

It is fitting perhaps, for it was the 5th Duke that radically changed the size and importance of Odessa during his 11 year administration as Governor.  By way of symbolism, what better statue/monument to take an oath before if administrative and societal change is to be brought about by a new policing structure?

Let’s be honest, doing so before a statue of Vladmimir Lenin or Felix Dzerzhinsky hardly brings about the image of positive change for a city frequented and shaped throughout history by those exiled by various (usually odious) regimes and/or dictators.

Patrol Police

Having written several times about the potential (and perhaps unsurprising) shortcomings of the new “Patrol Police’ with regard to their rushed training which may lead to a probable drop in face to face corruption, but an improbable outcome of quality policing.  That at least initially as quality improvements are very much dependent upon continuity of career-long training, nevertheless, a police service requires the support and consent of society – for without it, policing becomes a police force rather than a police service.

That said, almost all the hype surrounding the new “Patrol Police” has related to greatly reduced corruption rather than improvement in the quality of policing – which are not interchangeable benchmarks – success as far as corrupt practices is concerned is highly likely.

Ergo, as any training deficiencies are not the fault of the officers themselves (or indeed the trainers that deliver the training) but those that devised the training programme, then full support is forthcoming taking into account any such deficiencies and after identifying where any such deficiencies ultimately lie.

Obviously political expediency, particularly with local elections in October, demands a highly visible reform as swiftly as is practicable (if not necessarily as beneficial to the Ukrainian constituency as it perhaps could and should have been).

So be it – full support is forthcoming.

But what benchmarks should be used to measure the effectiveness of the new “Patrol Police” in Odessa?

There are of course policing benchmarks.  Part of those benchmarks can be the number of protocols/tickets issued.  The number of drunk drivers arrested. The number of traffic accidents dealt with etc. – The easy and visible statistics that generally display only a fraction of what quality policing is about.

It is quite difficult to measure preventative/proactive policing, as by its very nature that form of policing prevent statistics occurring in the first place – yet it forms a significant part of quality policing.

In the case of preventative traffic orientated policing as the “Patrol Police” seems generally geared toward, then that often works far better in partnership with the local authorities.

If a certain road junction sees 10 accidents a month, then putting a highly visible police presence at that junction for several weeks, after dozens of protocols/tickets being issued, there is a temporary reduction in accidents for fear of getting a protocol/ticket – and that preventative and reactive traffic policing is measurable against historical statistics.  However policing resources are scarce and there are dozens of such junctions with similar statistics.  Therefore the police in partnership with the local authorities, or by putting pressure upon the local authorities, identify where local budgets for traffic calming measures (be they speed bumps, fixed speeding cameras, the erection of traffic lights or placing of roundabouts) are to be placed by way of priority to reduce future accidents.

All very basic and very simple stuff.

Needless to say, however, when “anti-corruption” is the label the new Patrol Poliec have been sold under, any subsequent reduction in corruption carries difficulties in measurement that cannot be so easily or tangibly assessed.

It should also be made crystal clear that whilst a generally incorruptible new Patrol Police is undoubtedly welcome, it will actually do nothing whatsoever to undo the grotesquely disfigured corrupt Ukrainian economy – an economy so disfigured that it has never been able to pay public servants like the police with a wage (and pension) that would be worth staying on the straight and narrow for.  A wage so low in fact, that corruption is deemed necessary to reach a livable income for many.

To straighten out the hideously warped economics of Ukraine, it is necessary to remove the monopolies and vested interests that provide a very limited access to the Ukrainian market for a very select few, which in turn keeps wages and opportunities low and tax avoided via control over GDP.  Easy access to a genuinely open market for external players will undo the cronyist Ukrainian market and have a far deeper and long lasting effect on corruption than any new Patrol Police will ever have.

Thus perhaps (anti)corruption, despite it being widely touted as the driver behind the new Patrol Police is not the best of benchmarks – for its effects will be minimal economically for Ukraine, despite any perceived societal gain.

Indeed for the constituency of Ukraine used to paying the DAI (the old traffic police) a bribe to avoid a protocol and the administrative time (and therefore money) they involve, the new Patrol Police may turn out to be far more costly than the old corrupt system when protocols/tickets cannot be avoided via far cheaper and far more swiftly administered minor bribery.

That said, and perhaps in equal measure, society will be very supportive when those involved in serious traffic incidents resulting in serious injury or death cannot pay their way out of court appearances and thus avoid (deserved) jail time as so often happened historically.  Theoretically a new Patrol Police, abstaining from bribery, would at least put the serious matters to the prosecutors and ultimately the courts – although neither the corrupt prosecutors nor corrupt courts are anywhere near being reformed and institutional resistance is quite apparent.

Thus, a generally incorruptible Patrol Police whilst initially welcomed, may reach a point fairly swiftly of being generally despised rather than supported when they prove to be more costly in time and money to the drivers of Odessa than the previously corrupt DAI.

This brings about the possibly problematic issue of officer discretion.  What offences to pursue and which to let go?  How to manage the public and their expectations and remain a police service operating with societal consent, rather than a police force operating regardless of societal consent?

Sticking with the “traffic theme” most closely associated with the new Patrol Police, should officers stop cars traveling at 33/34 kilometers an hour in a 30 limit?

Although it depends upon the location, the answer is probably not.  Whilst the calibrated speed gun or speedometer in the police vehicle may say 34 kph, most speedometers of cars owned by the public are not that well calibrated.  Their speedometer may well say 30 kph when in fact they are traveling at 34 kph.  Also unless a driver spends all their time looking at their speedometer and not the road, speed is generally assessed by eye.  Why stop drivers and annoy your constituency for that?

In persistently taking this position though, are the police then de facto raising the speed limit to 35 kph in defiance of the law?

What about 35/38 kph in a 30 kph limit?  It would seem reasonable to stop a driver, but is anything more than “advice” warranted?  For the sake of 5 kph is formally prosecuting a large number of drivers going to advance the policing cause within society?

Clearly when traveling at 40 kph in a 30 kph limit, the issue of judging speed by eye, or vehicle speedometer calibration have reached reasonable limits, as perhaps has “advice given” – a protocol/ticket more often than not would be forthcoming.

Fair enough – but what of the stretches of road that have ridiculously low speed restrictions without any meaningful hazards for drivers or the larger society?  Should a protocol be issued then – or should advice be given?

In such circumstances is it in the interest of driver, society or the police to pursue formal action?

Would it not be better for the police to lobby the local authorities to raise the speed limit on such a section of road, and in doing so in all probability gain the support of drivers that use it – and by extension more broadly society?

As those who understand little about policing like quantifiable statistics and targets over and above the intangibles that quality prevention and discretionary policing provides by way of societal gain , in order to meet preordained policing targets (which will inevitably come if they don’t already exist) it falls upon both the police and government to address the voluminous tomes of unnecessary laws and seek to repeal them lest the be used simply to meet certain targets at the expense of the public under the guise of serving the public.

Massaging police statistics and reaching targets has already been written about.  Whilst that entry is crime statistic orientated, it can easily apply to traffic policing.

Therefore is public opinion, which may and probably will see highs and lows during any measurable timescale, a good benchmark for the new Odessa Patrol Police?  Are policing statistics a good benchmark?  Is a drop in corruption a good benchmark (if it can be measured at all)?  Are they all good benchmarks – or none of them?

Perhaps that depends entirely upon the timescale and at what point within that timescale any particular snapshot is taken?

How therefore, should the new Patrol Police, (or policing in general) be benchmarked and over what timescale?  There are easy statistics, there are more difficult statistics and there are preventative, society friendly unmeasurable actions that simply are not or cannot be effectively recorded.  There are, or should be, local, regional and national policing plans against which policing could be benchmarked.

If certain offences are clearly reduced by effective policing and society accepts that a particular offence is both legitimate and justified when targetted, yet other offences are not reduced at all regardless of numbers of offenders caught and prosecuted, what does that say about the policing?

Does it say anything about the policing, or does it say more about society’s acceptance of some laws, but not others?  If society simply refuses to adhere to certain laws but accepts others, is it a fault with the law rather than with the policing?  Who should be held accountable, and what is to be done?

If a particular law is an ass (a nod Dickens and Chapman) and many Ukrainian laws are certainly within that category, thus rejected by society, are the new Patrol Police (and police in general) expected to enforce them without fear or favour if the police also believe a particular law to be an ass too.  Should they decide not to enforce it?  Are all laws therefore equitable before the law enforcers and society?

Perhaps it is society that is an ass, and simply need to be guided by law enforcement to become far more law abiding?

Is the only benchmark that matters one of society’s increased willing to adhere to the laws of the land (be it an ass or not), forgetting any statistics or corruption benchmarking along the way – the only benchmarking that matters en route being all laws being deemed equal by those tasked with upholding them, and society en masse and without exception held equally before those laws?

If so, over what timescale should such a societal shift be measured?  Clearly that would be measured in years – but how many?

Unfortunately for the new Patrol Police of Odessa, it is a city (and Oblast), that whether under the rule of Tsar, the Kremlin and associated soviet party apparatchiks, or an independent Kyiv, has always taken an unspoken pride in discretely but purposefully giving “the finger” to “the man” decreeing and trying to implement any policy that it didn’t quite agree with – whomever “the man” was at any particular time.

Thus for the new “Patrol Police” to gain and retain societal traction and its more or less unconditional support in Odessa, it too is going to have to, where necessary, show “the man” the necessary “finger” where appropriate.

That will be best done by upholding the law but also challenging the local authorities when moronic bureaucratic decisions are made that effect – in this case predominantly traffic – policing and ultimately the local population that will be on the receiving end.

A wise Patrol Police management in Odessa would make a point of regularly being seen at city, district and oblast meetings arguing for effective policing solutions for the benefit of society – rather than simply accepting poorly thought out local administrative policy or political whims.

All that being said – let us wish the new Patrol Police in Odessa well and may all their societal trails be little ones.  May they have the individual moral fortitude and collective reinforcing group ethic to remain true to the oath they take.

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