Human Security: New Police, State Authorities, and Civil Society. The Case of Ukraine

By Natalya Belitser, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, Kyiv, Ukraine

\"\"Background information

After protracted preparations and heated debates, on June 2, 2015, Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine adopted innovative law “On National Police”. Civil society actors – mostly, human rights activists – participated in developing the draft and some of their proposals were accepted by lawmakers. On June 4 – two days after the law passed – 2000 new policemen started patrolling the streets of capital city Kyiv. Those young men and women (21 -35 years old) have been intensely trained  for three months; training courses included national and international legislation, new rules of conduct facing administrative and criminal offences, driving, physical exercises, ethical norms and principles and many other aspects of their future functioning. For some training courses – in particular, concerning human rights and non-discrimination – independent experts from CSOs were actively engaged. Such kind of training is itself experimental, because never before such a “multistakeholder” approach has been used; it is assumed that both advantages and drawbacks of the learning courses, preparing newly recruited personnel for the effective functioning, would be assessed.

Introduction of the patrolling police in Kyiv represents only the first step, a kind of “pilot project” preceding comprehensive reformation of the law-enforcement sector. Next cities to follow are Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Mykolaiv and some other. In Lviv, the new police (over 400 officers) was solemnly presented on August 23, in Odesa – on August 25. Mayors and heads of regional administrations often compete with each other for the right to introduce new police units as soon as possible. It was announced that until the end of the year, recruitment will be undertaken in eight more big cities.  

All these preparatory and implementing stages were conducted under the guidance of Eca Zguladze, the First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, highly competent and charismatic leader well known for the successful reformation of the police forces in Georgia.

Reaction of the society was quite remarkable. It should be recalled that before “Revolution of Dignity” (2013 – 2014) people’s mistrust in post-soviet “militiamen” was almost absolute. In critical situations, any help from them was not expected; public opinion polls showed the level of support by only 2% of citizens, whereas 66% were for a total reformation of the whole law-enforcement system. Brutal attitude of militia special units (in particular, notorious “Berkut”) responsible for beatings, killings and tortures of protesters added to the existing tensions. Therefore, much societal hopes and expectations have been invested in the creation of a modern, Western-type police. Rules and procedures for selection of candidates were rather severe; despite this, a number of applicants was very high: from 4.5 persons for a vacancy (in Kharkiv) to over 15 in Kyiv, Lutsk, and Uzzhorod. The highest competition results recorded in Khmelnitsky and Lviv: recent data have shown, respectively, 22 and 30 candidates for one vacancy. It is interesting to note that about two thirds of the applicants have higher education, and that between 20% and 40% of them are females. Former militiamen amounted to only 10% of the applicants.

According to numerous Internet posts, from the very beginning people were pleasantly impressed by the very polite, well equipped, well-dressed and highly motivated personnel of the new police patrolling the streets of Kyiv round the clock. Being so different from the traditional “menty” (derogating term for highly mistrusted, often feared of and even hated post-soviet militiamen) by their easy-going communication, immediate responses to emergency calls of those who are endangered or need help, and general performance, new police was met by quite positive attitude of the population, but at the same time, subjected to the insistent and assertive observation and constant monitoring – both formal and informal.  Each move and/or incident with the involvement of policemen has been vividly discussed by Internet users and covered by numerous bloggers. In particular, people positively react to the objective actions of the new patrolling police targeting those violators belonging to “VIPs” who used to be “above the law”.

Transparency of the recruiting “new people for the new police” and further proceedings are found “unprecedented”; numerous channels of communication have been established. For example, apart from the official web-site (, an open group “New Police: Feedback” appeared on Facebook as soon as on July 8 ( Hotline is actively propagated asking, inter alia, to report on any violations perpetrated by the patrolling police. Also, sharply increased number of calls on “102” emergency number may reflect the increased population trust.

It is important that the proclaimed ideology of these police forces is quite different from the former one. Basic concepts are formulated as: “collaboration, communication, and providing services”. The main goals are designated as “to serve and protect” (“We are not to punish, we are to ensure your security”). Indeed, there are many positive responses describing such cases. As a result, after one month of police operations, the level of confidence in them raised significantly: according to the sociological poll by “RAITING” agency, 82% of the residents of Kyiv endorsed appearance of the new police, and 69% of the respondents expect improvement of criminal situation in the city and of their own security; approximately half of them hope also for the successful contribution to counteract corruption. Vision of their activities as a “first step for better future” is widely shared by police personnel themselves and society at large. 

Challenges and risks

Of course, not all is going on as smoothly as it may seem following this brief overview. The main challenge consisted in the delayed signing of the law: President Poroshenko signed it only on July 4. This means that over the whole month activities of the new police were actually realised beyond the legal space of Ukraine. Despite the not especially convincing explanations of the “test regime”, this gave ground for numerous doubts and accusations from the opponents of reformation of the existing system, also from some human rights activists, sceptics and just provocateurs. Among the “arguments” of the opponents are charges that there are more PR-actions than actual results. There was even an attempt to cancel the law, although the proposal to push the respective parliamentary decision didn’t pass, having acquired only 98 votes.

Representatives of human rights community and jurists also expressed their dissatisfaction with certain norms of the law “On national police”, in particular, concerning regulations on arms and rules of using them. Certain risks leading to a number of legal confusion relate to the parallel functioning of the new police and old militia while division and scope of their duties and powers is not always clearly defined. Moreover, several serious “misunderstandings” between the two services have been reported, following the attempts of “old guard” to restore the old practices of bribing and using contacts “on above” in order to escape punishment for some administrative or even criminal law infringements. Officially, the Law of Ukraine “On Militia” (adopted yet in 1991) will be out of force only on 7 November 2015.

High standards demanded from the new policemen turned out not always observed by the recruited personnel: twelve policemen in Kyiv were fired during the first month of working. However, their chief promised all failures and mistakes to be thoroughly analysed and corrected on next stages, stating also that the inevitable lack of experience is quickly vanishing.

Foreign Aid

A number of objections and dissatisfaction relates also to the “too expansive” costs of the new police. Apart from salaries being 3 – 4 times higher than before, questions are asked about from where the money has come for their equipment, cars, uniforms etc. Lion share of these claims are, perhaps, not sincere because information on aid from abroad is easily available. The most generous country providing financial and organisational support for the reformation of law-enforcement agencies is the US. This state allocated for these purposes 15 ml USD; instructors and lecturers from California were actively engaged in trainings and learning courses. In general, a leading role and influence of the US is evident even “visibly”: uniforms of Ukrainian policemen closely resemble those of American “cops”. It is also important to note that the US continues providing different kind of assistance for such an important task as creating police units of special destination analogous to those of the US SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics, initially – Special Weapons Assault Team). Having been established to replace their deeply compromised predecessors, this unit will consist of 5.000 personnel, and members of the new police demonstrating the best results, will be a constituent part of this special force.

Apart from the US, Japan contributed to the formation of the new patrolling service by donating 200 new cars Toyota Prius, whereas portable medicine kits came from Australia. Such manifestations of international solidarity and support for Ukraine’s endeavours to achieve genuinely positive results in dealing with sectorial reforms, preceding overall changes in all spheres of public life, are of extreme value not only for authorities but also for ordinary citizens, encouraging the latter for further civic activism.


In view of the intense (and not slackening) attention to the activities of the new police, it is surprising that not less important element of ensuring human security – operations of the Ukrainian CIMIC (civil-military cooperation) Group – practically escaped wide public discussion and media coverage. This special unit, established by the General staff yet in 2014 according to NATO standards, accomplishes a lot of important functions, in particular, at the territories of Eastern Ukraine liberated from local separatists(armed and supplemented by Russian militaries) and coming under the jurisdiction of central authorities. Traditional CIMIC mission usually consists in developing cooperation with local bodies and administrations, regional and international NGOs and other CSOs and population in general, in particular, providing humanitarian aid, participating in the exchange of prisoners of war and those who perished. In addition to these conventional tasks, officers of the Ukrainian CIMIC group are also actively engaged in less widespread activities – like repair of the destroyed objects of infrastructure vital for restoring life-support system. The need for this was conditioned by the practically non-functioning bodies of local administrations and self-government in some of the towns and settlements located in the zone of ATO (Anti-Terror Operation). These activities, especially in Donets’ka oblast, promoted remarkably improved relations between Ukrainian militaries and local population: according to Colonel Nozdrachev, the Head of the CIMIC Group, support increased from 20 -30% a year ago to 80 – 85% in summer 2015. Scarce knowledge about and low level of interest to the CIMIC Group-Ukraine can be explained, perhaps, by the lack of publicity and PR-actions, also by rather rare interviews and other events attracting media.

Therefore, although the first steps towards building trustworthy and comprehensive system of modern military and police forces, aimed at not only national but also human security, can be regarded as a moderate success, much more work in this direction is needed. Ever increasing activity of civil society and its rising role in reformation of security sector might be a cornerstone of further achievements.

By Natalya Belitser, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, Kyiv, Ukraine

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