A day with the new Ukrainian police

New Ukraine, Ukraine

Since the police reform in 2015, the Ukrainian police force has made great strides in modernization and anti-corruption. UATV correspondents join two patrol officers to document their average day.

It’s the start of a new working day for Ihor and Mykolay, officers of Kyiv’s police force. At 8 AM, the patrol officers are undergoing a shift change, while our news team is scrambling to meet them at the scene of a car accident.

“We’re approaching, ETA 3 minutes.”

The site of the accident has already caused a traffic slowdown. The officers on the scene are already hard at work.

Mykolay Riabtsev, Patrol Police Inspector: “We are currently taking measurements and drawing up a model of the accident. We are removing fast cars, in order to ease traffic. Well, for traffic safety, because the road is not safe.”

The perpetrator immediately confesses his role, in the accident.

“I’m a scoundrel, I’m responsible for this accident, I’m not denying it.”

The officers have collected evidence and have followed protocol to the letter. The fate of the perpetrator will be decided in court.

Ihor and Mykolay have served in the patrol police force since day one. They say that car accidents are the most common issues they encounter. Oftentimes, they will encounter up to four different accidents in a single shift. Drunk drivers are especially dangerous.

Mykolay Riabtsev, Patrol Police Inspector: “The car didn’t stop when requested, then sped off, resulting in a chase. Our patrol cars boxed him in. I reached for my service weapon and readied it. I explained the situation to the driver. The driver understood his mistake and corrected it, let’s say it that way.”

Suddenly, the officers receive another call and respond.

“We have a call. The caller conforms that unknown persons have entered the building and broken down the doors. They’re saying the persons are dressed in green uniforms.”

The patrol officers meet employees of the SBU, the State Security Service, as well as prosecutors. They had arrived to enforce a court decision. However, the address indicated actually housed a different company and a different owner. The owner intends to lodge a complaint against the agencies. The patrol officer calls for an investigative team.

Caller: “They’ve already broken down the doors. They could have waited for a lawyer, instead of breaking into the building. If you think that they have broken procedure by not notifying you to avoid breaking down the doors, you can appeal this to the administrative agency or to the court. We’ll remain to ensure there are no provocations or law-breaking.”

The patrol officers hand off the case to the investigative team. A red light goes off in the police car. The next call is urgent. Our news team hastily follows the officers through traffic. Meanwhile, the officers had already managed to assist in delaying the robbers trying to break into an apartment. This isn’t the first time the patrollers have encountered robberies.

Mykolay Riabtsev: “We once caught robbers in an apartment on the first floor, while the snow was knee-deep. We ended up waiting an hour for the investigative teams, because they were held up at another crime scene. And we got cold and they got cold.”

Arrestees will often try to bribe the restraining officers, the patrolmen admit. But they value the honour of their uniform, and not just because of their high salaries.

Mykolay Riabtsev: “They offer 100, 200, 300 hryvnias. Even 500. But we immediately stop them. We initially joined the police force in order to change things, in order to stop corruption. Secondly, taking a bribe isn’t worth it, we’ve invested a lot in order to work as police officers, a lot of sweat and tears.”

Ukraine has often struggled with corruption in the police force. To combat it, Ukraine, acting in concert with the International Renaissance Foundation and the EU Consultative Mission introduced reforms in 2015. These reforms have consolidated patrol and traffic officers. The reforms have trained and hired hundreds of new officers, as well as increasing their pay. The additional creation of a Human Rights Department within the Ukrainian National Police has also worked to bring Ukraine in line with international and EU standards.

Unfortunately for Ihor and Mykolay, the hooligan managed to escape. Residents attempt to inform the officers of other complaints. After the call, Mykolay opened up and spoke about the difficulties of his service.

Mykolay Riabtsev: “There are a lot of cases where criminals escape responsibility due to loopholes in the law. A lot of norms, roughly speaking, are dead.”

The next steps in police reform will involve changes to judicial processes and simplified legislation for criminal misdemeanours. There are a few more accidents and administrative violations throughout the day. A single shift lasts 12 hours and is now ending.

Mykolay Riabtsev: “Sometimes there are 15 calls, 3–5 accidents and sometimes we don’t have time to eat lunch. Today was a relatively peaceful day. We try to help any way we can within the limits of our authority.”

At 8 PM, the night shift replaces our patrolmen.

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