Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 17.10.2017
To serve and protect: it is a motto of police forces throughout the democratic West. Modern policing is the idea that the civil power should have dedicated members whose job it is to enforce the law. To have civilian police serve and protect their own communities stands against the idea of having a militia impose state domination. Modern policing grew out of Sir Robert Peel’s “Principles of Law Enforcement” which he published in 1829. His first principle was that “the mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force.” Military force, the “militsya,” was what Ukraine had up until the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-14. This was a legacy of Russian occupation. Since then Ukraine has introduced patrol police, who look to end a dark period of corruption and usher in a new era of service and protection for the communities from which its members are drawn.
The second of Peel’s principles is public support: the people have to support the police and see them as their own. They’re “our cops” not “the government’s militsya.” Ukrainians had good reason not to trust the militsya after the horrific violence they used and mass killing they committed during the EuroMaidan protests. The Berkut (special riot police) were disbanded and the militsya were lustrated. More than 10,000 militsya members were fired. A “patrol police” was born, with motivate members dedicated to community service. Canada made support for a “serve and protect” police in Ukraine a top foreign policy goal. A project called simply “Supporting Police Training in Ukraine” is getting up to six and a half million dollars in funding. The project aims “to completely overhaul and transform Ukrainian police services into an effective, accountable and community-focused institution.”
Ukraine is now establishing a Police Academy, along the lines of the Canadian Police College. Head of the National Police of Ukraine, Serhiy Kniazev, initiated Ukraine’s Police Academy on 5 July 2017. The first class of students will be 500 police officers, possibly starting in January 2018. In preparation for its foundation, a delegation from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry visited Ottawa, Toronto, and Regina in Canada. Canada’s capital Ottawa is where the Canadian Police College is; Ontario’s capital Toronto is where the largest city police force in Canada is; Saskatchewan’s capital Regina is the training headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s federal police force.
Military police have not been left out. At the NATO-Ukraine training centre in Lviv region in western Ukraine, a modern approach to military policing – that leave the senseless brutality of Soviet methods behind – is being picked up by sergeants and junior officers of the Ukrainian armed forces. They have instructors who are experts in military policing from Canada, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, the NATO Centre of Excellence in Poland, and Denmark. The next phase of training, a nine-week course, is starting this month.
The missing piece of the puzzle is the judiciary in Ukraine. The Yanukovych-era judges and prosecutors have not undergone lustration as the Yanukovych-era “militsya” did. This leads to to the the shameful practice of “catch and release” where the patrol police or the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine arrest suspects but they are freed without facing a serious trial. When the patrol police started in 2015 they were young, fresh and greeted with great enthusiasm by the Ukrainian communities in which they serve. Institutionalized corruption has been dealt a heavy blow at the level of law enforcement, but it is still deeply rooted at the level of the administration of justice. This is the next challenge for Ukraine. A lot has been done in three years, and the patrol police are a shining example. But there is much left to be done, and the yet-to-be-reformed judiciary is at the top of Ukraine’s to-do list.