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Khatia Dekanoidze throws down the policing gauntlet

January 23, 2016

Perhaps unnoticed, on 22nd January the recently appointed head of the newly rebranded National Police Khatia Dekanoidze, threw down the policing gauntlet to the regional heads of the nation’s policing with regard to crime.

Khatia Dekanoidze

Khatia Dekanoidze

Despite noting the “pains” of reform, she underlined the fact that all legislative acts for the newly rebranded police to get on with policing are now in place, and stated “As the head of the National Police, I give you a month to really show your work.

Very good – and it will be a statement, prima facie, well received by the Ukrainian constituency – at least it will be well received by those who actually become aware of it.

But –

Firstly her statement has no “or else” to it.  We can perhaps infer there is an “or else”, but if there is an “or else” that “or else” is unclear as to its severity – nor is the benchmark at which the “or else” applies (or not).

Having rebranded to the National Police, that does not necessarily equate to changing the institutional legacy/memory – particularly amongst the old “specialist” hands.

Part of that legacy/memory is that regardless of the actual crime rate, (which undoubtedly, and no differently to any nation, sees its crime figures “massaged”), has historically seen unbelievably high detection rates across the entire spectrum of crime (less those which historically involved “the connected” regardless of the evidence) each and every year.

This raises some fundamental questions about crime reporting, crime recording, crime detection and how a crime was/is detected.

How many crimes are reported compared to how many officially recorded?

How many are detected by genuinely quality and morally upstanding police work?

How many crimes are detected by an offender for one or more crimes, admitting to other crimes through coercion or “favours” that they did not commit but will ultimately make no difference to their sentencing (taking into consideration/TICs), and thus simply makes for an easy time in police custody for assisting in the clear up/detection rate?

How many are forced confessions?

How many are prison write-offs whereby a convicted criminal admits to numerous crimes whilst in prison (with no additional time to their sentence) and when “writing off” those crimes also insuring they are not subject to a prison gate arrest upon release for a crime they committed, failed to admit, but are now suspected of? When “writing off” such crimes, how many crimes they didn’t commit do they write off as a “favour” to the police in return for contraband/difficult to get goods in prison?

There is also a historical policing issue in Ukraine of revisiting victims/complainants and asking them to withdraw crime reports when nobody has been caught (or willing to have then “taken into consideration” or “written off”).  A withdrawn complaint means no recorded crime.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with an offender charged with a number of offences admitting to a host of other crimes to be “taken into consideration” at any court hearing in many nations.  There is also nothing wrong with “prison write offs” either.  These are practices that occur in many nations.  The question is one of insuring the offender/inmate actually committed the crimes they are admitting to whilst assisting in the crime detection/clear up rate and insuring they have no nasty surprises upon their release.

Does Ms Dekanoidze want to head a National Police that faithfully records crimes and detects them with professional integrity – in which case the number of recorded and undetected crimes will significantly rise, but in doing so provide a far more honest picture to the public and foundation for basing any National, Regional and Local Policing Plans around?  If yes, and in doing so publicly stating/forewarning that a significant rise in reported and undetected crime will occur because the police will not be rigging the statistics – as all Ukrainians know they always have – then that would be a major change in institutional behaviour.

It is perhaps bad enough that (in many nations) regional forces try to massage statistics to meet the national averages – for example the seriousness of assault can be categorised up or down depending upon detection (or not) to meet the national average, or burglaries recategorised as theft from dwellings dependent upon detection (or not) to meet national averages – but the national averages for detected crime of most nations have historically been much lower than that officially declared by Ukraine.  For example, and to pluck a random year, the UK national average in 2012/13 for detected crime was 28.6%, whilst in Ukraine it was 36.5%.

Of course there are differences between what actually constitutes crimes – or not – between nations.  There may also be differences between what constitutes “detected” – the UK for example uses the formal charging of a person with an offence – and not their conviction – but were the Ukrainian police really 8% better at crime detection than their UK peers in 2012?

How are figures going to be effected by the almost daily arrests for corruption in regions like Odessa?  Every arrest is a detected crime that previously would not even have been registered.  A lot of 1 for 1’s will effect crime statistics but also overall detection rates.

How will having prosecutors prosecute and not investigate (as historically they did) effect crime detection?

How will overhauling the Statute Book and criminalising acts that were previously not criminal, or decriminalising acts in an effort at “Europeanisation” (and rejection of post-Sovietism statute) effect crime statistics?  Will it be possible to compare historical crime statistics to those current – or simply too problematic?

Will root and branch reform of the entire law enforcement system transfer investigative responsibilities between the many agencies?  What effect will that have – if any?

Is there a case for systemic reform of crime reporting, recording and acceptable methods of detection?

Over the next month during which Ms Dekanoidze rightly wants to see results – what are the benchmarks?  Are the public allowed to know?

How do those benchmarks fit into a new National Policing Plan (if there is one) and how do Regional and Local Policing Plans (if there are any) dovetail with the National Plan?  Where and how does that fit with the “Europeanisation” of policing – for it has a part to play in the the EU CSDP with regard to cross border crime.

Having regional police chiefs simply increase detection rates/reduce crime rates by whatever means to serve up “better” statistics against unknown benchmarks to Ms Dekanoidze does little to install confidence.  The “means” are as equally important as the “ends” with the rule of law.

A police service, serves with the consent of its constituency.  Without that consent it is a police force.  Consent comes by way of public trust, by way of public transparency, by way of public accountability and by way of a public conversation.  That means the public knowing what the plan is and what the benchmarks are – especially if you want the public’s help in meeting them.  To be quite blunt, the public’s help is essential, because effective policing isn’t easy (whether it be proactive, preventative, or reactive policing).

What then does Ms Dekanoidze statement “I give you a month to really show your work” actually mean?  And does it mean the same to her as it does to those regional police chiefs that heard it?  Does the domestic constituency glean the same meaning as either of them?

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