Archive for September 13th, 2017

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All senior police chiefs must pass through ATO – Why?

September 13, 2017

Disregarding the fact that the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) was, is, and will remain a complete misnomer, it is what it is per legislation – it appears now that in order to become a senior police officer anywhere across the country it is necessary to have “passed through ATO”.

Some form of right of passage forged in the fires of the front lines in eastern Ukraine to senior institutional positions in Ukraine – others need not apply.

Such is the perception given by the latest diktat from Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov.

On 13th September 2017, Deputy Interior Minister Sergei Yarovoi announced the decision of Minister Avakov – “According to the decision of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the heads of the National Police, all heads of the police of the regions must pass through the zone of the Anti-Terrorist Operation.” We invite all the officers who took direct part in the units in the ATU zone to all the leading posts of the National Police.”

The is but one singular question to ask – Why? (and perhaps a secondary question – why now?)

A solider in times of war, fights.  A policeman in times of war – and in time of peace (or anything in between) – polices.  A nation is grateful to both – and needs both.

It is indeed common for ex-military personnel to transfer into other State uniformed roles – the police, prison service, customs et al.  It is also not uncommon for those that climbed through the ranks of the military to enter “fast-tracked” promotion programmes aimed at leveraging their personnel and organisational abilities honed within the military structures.

That said, a police service also contains former market workers, builders, car sales people, hairdressers, business people et al too.  A police service polices with the consent of the public and its ranks are thus broadly drawn from the public.  Diversity among its ranks is a requirement for it to mirror the society from whence it is composed and that which it is to police.

It follows that its leadership should not be limited to those of any former experience prior to joining its ranks.  The police leadership, other than the experience accumulated through policing as an individual moves through the ranks on merit (and examinations relating to the knowledge of the law) is all that matters.

The common denominator among the police is (or should be) that of integrity and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law – not a commitment to the President, Minister Avakov, or anybody else.

However, it is difficult to think of a police service whose leadership must have served on the front line of a conflict – whether as a soldier, a police officer, customs officer or SBU officer.  It is entirely unclear how the National Police Service of Ukraine, or society, will benefit from this decision by Minister Avakov.

Quality policing and the delivery of it does not come via all senior leadership having passed through the misnomer that is ATO.  Ergo by filling all senior police ranks only with such individuals, as heroic as they may be, at the expense of other career police officers benefits policing – and by extension the Ukrainian constituency – how?

After all, if all serving police officers had headed off to ATO, who would have been policing the nation?  Those that continued to police now suffer a career ceiling because the were busy policing the nation rather than fulfilling a role in ATO?

Admittedly policing is a broad arena, covering everything from traffic offences, to crime, and dog bites to domestics.  There is the public (dis)order role too.  There may be (and indeed should be) a few specialist departments that smudge the lines with issues such as counterterrorism when it comes to intelligence gathering and investigation, or tactical firearms units for example.  Nevertheless, policing has a defined role, as does the military and also the National Guard.

Perhaps this decision is a matter of political optics?  An inference that those who have served within ATO are by definition loyal to Ukraine and thus decidedly solid citizens.  Well that may be true for the vast majority – indeed it probably is.

But was that not the point of creating a new National Police too?

Was that not the reason behind lustration within the ranks?

Was not the entire point of those exercises to leave only loyal, solid Ukrainian citizens with the integrity to act as a police service and unwavering uphold the rule of law without bias?  These people are no longer able to hold senior police ranks and positions because they were busy upholding the law across the nation while others were serving in ATO?

The more cynical may begin to believe that Minister Avakov (and perhaps Mr Turchinov within the NSDC) is simply placing “his chosen people” atop the remaining regional law enforcement hierarchy.  People who some may infer, may misguidedly place loyalty to the Minister before loyalty to the rule of law if push ever came to shove.  Some will further question the timing no pre-election electioneering has begun.

Unless push ever comes to shove, or systemic policing patterns begin to emerge that would provide empirical or specific evidence to add weight to such cynical thinking, then it remains little more than speculation.  Speculation however, there will be.

No doubt Mr Avakov would inform such cynics that they are misguided.  At the same time, perhaps he would also explain how his decision to fill all the top policing ranks with only those who have “passed through ATO”, will benefit policing – particularly to those career police officers over whom he has just placed an arbitrary and unfathomable career ceiling.

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