Corrupt, unethical, and dishonest – Ukraine’s previous police force were seen as some of the worst representatives of the state. Today, that profile is shifting to one of service – not to the government, but to the Ukrainian people.
The National Police of Ukraine (NPU) does not have a long history. Formed on 3 July 2015 as part of reforms to replace the previous national law enforcement structures guard, they are therefore what some might call a fledgling agency. That doesn’t mean, however, they’re not learning on the job. Quite the contrary. That is exactly what they are doing.
A Common Goal
With cracks in the system evident for some time, the aftermath of the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity broke even bigger fissures in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was agreed a new system was necessary, and in 2015 that plan was initiated with reforms to the DAI (State Auto Inspection – aka some of the most corrupt individuals in uniform) and the capital’s patrol service.
Funds came in from various countries, including across the EU, the US, and Canada to bring in new recruits, train, and provide structure to a new generation of police officers. There are still a number of international groups active in the country to assist with the transition. The Canadian contingent includes the Police Training Assistance Program (PTAP) run by Tom Monastyrski of Agriteam Canada and the Canadian Police Mission (CPMU) in Ukraine headed by RCMP officer Bruce Kirkpatrick. While the groups have different mandates, the general goal is the same: ensure the success of the new NPU.
A Beautiful Marriage
A number of initiatives within Kyiv as well as across the country sees both groups active in the policing community. Perhaps one of the biggest projects undertaken however is the establishment of a Police Academy in Ukraine’s capital. Training in an academy setting is typical in western countries, ensuring all recruits get the same quantity and quality. Until recently, Ukraine had no such structure: “Patrol Police here used to get two months of training before going out on the street,” says Kirkpatrick. “This is unheard of. In Canada, there is a six-month training program plus in-service training, including on-the-job experience.”
Despite the disparity, Kirkpatrick says they have been careful not to impose their values on the program. “Instead,” he relays, “we said, ‘if this is what you want to learn, then let’s show you how we do it’.” With the police service here seeking advice from outside sources and so eager to improve, Kirkpatrick, an officer with more than 30 years experience, says it has been a “beautiful marriage”.
A Culture of Tradition
Monastyrski shares this vision and says PTAP provides a great support mechanism for long-term stability. “Our focus is to continue to help shape an academy-based training centre, advance various legislative reform, and offer leadership support. A big part of this,” he says, “is getting people’s minds around the fact that the police aren’t there to be heavy-handed or take bribes, which is a huge result of Maidan.”
Currently in the middle of a two-and-a-half-year program, backed by 6.5 million CAD investment from the Canadian government, Monastyrski knows that building the system is key, and one of the ways in which PTAP is doing this is by bringing in simulators – equipment that allows for more effective training based on local Ukrainian scenarios. “As a police officer, what you do or don’t do either escalates or deescalates a situation, and these simulators can help with cognitive decision-making.”
Between the experts PTAP brings in for various projects and the near 20 officers CPMU have in court, Kirkpatrick says that they already have a good foothold to address various gaps that might exist in community policing efforts, domestic violence, women and policing, and also criminal investigative response training. While a number of his officers have been dispatched outside of the capital for training with various municipal forces, he sees them having the greatest impact on future officers at the Academy here in Kyiv. The goal, he says, is that “everyone enters the police by way of the Academy so they can understand a culture of tradition that will last an entire career”.
For both Kirkpatrick and Monastyrski, education is key, and with a new group recently having gone through the 4-week CPMU trainer’s course, it’s the locals themselves who are testament to the efficacy of these international initiatives. In fact, the most recent graduation occurred on 21 February, with nine officers completing the course. Upon receiving their certificates in a small ceremony at the Academy, every single one pronounced, “I serve the Ukrainian people”; a statement rarely heard until the clashes on Maidan made it one of import.
Andriy, a senior lecturer in fire training, says, “This course, both for us as well as our students, is one built on humane principles and advances the development of the Patrol Police. We need to improve on the overall perception of the Patrol Police in society as officers who are here to help, not vice versa.”
Best of the Best
All of the officers who have completed the training agree that had such a course been provided earlier they would have avoided some past mistakes. But in fact, that is the point, says Kirkpatrick: “We really try to teach critical thinking – situations change quickly, so why not feel that pressure in a controlled safe environment first?”
With the group versed in these critical lessons and eager to pass them onto recruits, they all nod at being able to call themselves “the best of the best”. “The work of the police is the same everywhere,” says Volodymyr, an instructor at the Academy. “Even though the Ukrainian mentality is unique, a Canadian criminal with a knife runs just as quickly as a Ukrainian one. The tactical bases of this course have allowed us to improve significantly.”
A final remark comes from Igor, a senior teacher of physical training, who says, “The goal is always to adapt to become better in life. It is nice to know that we are reforming for our society, so that our children will be more secure than we were.”
Building an institution
The Capacity of Programs like these don’t just change the people who take them, they change society as a whole, and considering the colossal transformation in Ukraine in the last few years, they are welcome. Monastyrski says, “We’re not just training 20 this week or 30 next week – we’re trying to build the capacity of an institution that will train police for years to come – it’s something the government of Canada should be very proud of.”
With renovations ongoing in the Academy, as well as various programs, workshops, and training seminars occurring across the country, Kirkpatrick admits it’s an easy sell to get officers from Canada to give up a year: “We’re contributing to something palpable which we will get to see in our lifetime.” The only downsidr, he says, is that “you get here, and just start to understand. It tears people’s hearts to leave because they know their job’s not done.”
The fact remains however that these programs and the people who run them have already made an impact. It continues now to be the responsibility of those here to ensure that momentum is not just maintained but continues to grow.
“Our mission is the formation of a new generation of police officers who implement in their line of duty three main principles: honesty, professionalism, selflessness”
– Academy of Patrol Police