New Head of the Police – next step of the reform or conservation of the old system?

February 8, 2017 (UA)

It makes more sense today to discuss position of Arsen Avakov in further development of the National Police, than personality of Sergiy Knyazev as newly appointed Head of the body. We will be able to appraise plans, priorities of the new Head of the Police and his ability to fulfill them only after a few months of work.

We’ve already expressed our opinion on disadvantages of the competition – it remained closed for the society. Meanwhile, it would have been useful for the society and experts to become familiar with content and conditions of long-term and short-term programs, motivation letter, written by Sergiy Knyazev as a candidate and sent to the Commission. It is important, because it shows Knyazev’s main goals and ways to achieve them for the next 5 years as the head of the biggest law enforcement institution.

Avakov made an expected decision and chose acting high-ranking official of the National Police among three candidates (two of them were acting officials of the Police), recommended by the Commission according to the competition. Avakov chose a person most experienced in investigations.

Considering this choice we conclude that Arsen Avakov don’t see reforms of the police as relevant and urgent anymore, but he gives priority to stabilization of the police and combating crime under the leadership of authoritative and experienced representative of the “old police guard”. Sergiy Knyazev became an authorized enforcement officer in 1995 and was moving up the ladder despite change of ministers.

Avakov’s position meets expectations of the society, which wants to see the state protecting it against bandits and robbers. Because crime rate and number of robberies, resulted from objective reasons (war on the East of Ukraine, economic crisis, etc.) raised unprecedentedly.

In the wake of such public mood the Minister, who supported destruction of the “old police system”, involvement of new people, total lustration of the Police a year and a half ago, now was heading to stabilization of the initial reorganization state and focused on ensuring the security of law and order by any means.

In fact, reform of the Police stopped at the patrol service and didn’t reach the criminal sphere. Recertification of police officers was the only little step towards the so-called staff reboot.

In such conditions we see the great risk that the police will combat crime by: 1) the old methods (combining systemic human rights violations); 2) staffing investigators, who raise great doubts among the population (according to last polls) because of unprofessional actions and corruption, even though they’ve changed their uniforms; 3) efforts to change current laws, Criminal Procedural Code and bylaws with a goal to give more power to police officers and decrease human rights guarantees as it has been lately made in the “obey first and dispute later” initiative.

The paradox is that combating crime will be unsuccessful without significant reforms. And we will see attitude of the Minister and the Head of the Police to this fact soon.

Meanwhile, considering this information we can propose two police reorganization scenarios, one of which may be realized by the Minister and new Head of the Police.

Variant 1: Considered reforms.

Course for reorganization will continue, but changes won’t be crucial and won’t deal with staff reboot under any circumstances. Reforms will be mostly focused on higher effectiveness of internal anti-corruption mechanisms, better supply for police officers, introduction of new progressive organizational tools. Transparency and accountability of the Police will stay at the current low level. Competition system will work only at lesser positions. Further development of the patrol service, reforms of precincts, human rights office and police training system will be supported but very slowly. Plan on reorganization of the criminal police and internal security department will be developed and realized in a short time.

Variant 2: Conservation of current conditions, pause in reforms.

Calls for the police reorganization will be on the agenda of the Head, but the main goals will be to improve material conditions of work and activate the Internal Security Department, which is fighting corruption among the police officers. Other reforms will be at risk of cessation because of a probability to unbalance work of the National Police as a system and undermine its actions against crimes. Police departments, which were eliminated by Hatie Dekonoidze, may be restored and patrol police may lose some competences. Cooperation with the civil society in the field of reforms will be minimized. It also concerns the level of transparency and accountability of the police.

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