Authorities and experts discuss how to find a proper balance in the work of National Police

Authorities and experts discuss how to find a proper balance in the work of National Police
October 17, 2016.

National Police together with experts and MPs come to conclusion that the legislation regulating work of police must balance rights and obligations of police and citizens.

Kyiv, October 17, 2016. Today, Ukrainian legislation is not efficient enough to regulate work of the National Police. Filling these blank spots, it is important to establish a balance of rights and obligations of the police, which would allow police to act effectively and ensure protection of police officers and, at the same time, guarantee respect for citizens’ rights. It is desirable that all legislative initiatives on this issue should be proposed to open discussions with the participation of government representatives, experts from the public and the new patrol police. This was stated by participants of the discussion “Police efficiency and citizens’ rights. Finding a balance within the legislation” held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

National Police initiate amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences

Their main goal is to improve police efficiency and ensure better protection of police officers. “They will soon be submitted to the Parliament, and, I hope, supported by MPs,” noted Volodymyr Zhydenko, Head of the Legal Department at the National Police of Ukraine.

  1. Proposals to the Code of Administrative Offences

It is proposed to strengthen responsibility for leaving the scene of an accident. “We want to expand sanctions up to disqualification from driving,” said Volodymyr Zhydenko.

One of the major innovations – to remove the requirement for the presence of two attorneys during alcohol testing – so that patrol police could immediately take a test at night-time, record and protocolize it without wasting time on searching for attorneys.

It is also proposed to itemize the mechanism of temporary detention of a vehicle which hinders traffic. “Currently, the rule is very vague and does not specify the circumstances when it is to be evacuated from the parking space,” explained Volodymyr Zhydenko.

Another proposal is to increase the time of administrative detention for certain offenses up to 24 hours instead of the current 3 hours – “in case a person is in a state of alcoholic, narcotic or other intoxication and may harm themselves or others “. Volodymyr Zhydenko explained that the initiative should improve suppression of offenses in case of family violence: if an offender returns home after 3 hours, still drunk, there is a serious risk of recurrence of the incident. Moreover, the offender cannot be immediately taken to court for imposing a fine in the evening and night-time.

2. Proposals to the Law “On Road Traffic”

It is necessary to itemize the rules for submission of documents for vehicle inspection. “We want to register that a driver is not to produce but send the documents – due to the fact that currently the rule is interpreted very broadly. For example, a person can just dangle a document before the policeman’s eyes and believe that it was produced,” explained Mr. Zhydenko. Another innovation will be a ban for a driver and passengers to leave a car without a policeman’s permission – both for people’s safety, and for the safety of police officers. “When police stop a car for driving through a red light – they cannot know who is behind the wheel – a decent man who is distracted or a wanted person with firearms,” noted Anton Gerashchenko, MP, member of the Committee on Legislative Support of Law Enforcement.

3. Proposals to the Law “On the National Police”

It is proposed to oblige police to respond to an offense regardless of location and time of day. “A police officer, even while off duty and not in uniform, must stop an offense, if becoming a witness,” detailed Volodymyr Zhydenko. They also propose a rule that police officers must show their identity card to a citizen “in a form that allows reading the information in it.” They also introduce a system of identification of protective equipment of special purpose police departments – so that in case police abuse their authority, they can be identified by the video.

Circumstances and reasons for the use of special equipment will be itemized. “This is to ensure that the police have the right to more widely apply special means but not firearms,” said Volodymyr Zhydenko. Also, they will set terms for the storage of video from police cells and spell out the right of citizens to film police work unless it interferes with the performance of duties.

Also, they determine additional grounds for stopping a vehicle: police can stop a car based on witnesses’ information that a driver behind the wheel is drunk.

Human rights activists: the initiatives are sensible but there are some admonitions

The first admonition concerns the proposal to take alcohol tests without attorneys. According to Borys Malyshev, Associate Professor of Theory and History of State and Law at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, expert at “Reanimation package of reforms”, and Mykola Havronyuk, Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, board member at the Center for Political and Legal Reforms, this can create corruption risks. Mykola Havronyuk reminded that the rule had appeared in the legislation as a safeguard against GAI employees’ abuses. The norm that a citizen must give the documents in the policeman’s hands has similar risks.

Mykola Havronyuk added that it would be desirable to introduce criminal liability of the police as a criminal offense for exceeding limits of necessary defense, which resulted in light and moderate bodily injuries. Now such liability covers only the cases of serious bodily injury or death.

However, the human rights activists agreed that it is expedient to make certain concessions to protect law enforcement officers. “Among the people to whom the police make demands are both law-abiding citizens and offenders. We should compromise on our freedom, if we understand that it affects the police security – health of a girl or a boy who are in the police service,” noted Mykola Havronyuk.

Initiatives of MPs: enhancing liability for insulting and disobeying the police

Mustafa Nayyem, MP, member of the board at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine informed that now two draft laws have been prepared (the alternative one was initiated by MP Ihor Lutsenko) to increase penalties for insulting the police (up to 15-30 tax-exempt minimums), and for willful disobedience to police (30-40 tax-exempt minimums) as well as for using obscene language. “We have agreed to our common option. There is a comparison table that is being analyzed by our jurist. We will most likely withdraw the current draft laws and will submit a single draft law,” noted Mustafa Nayyem.

The public representatives should participate in disciplinary commissions

“The more rights and powers we give to the police, the more balanced should be these rights with their duties and responsibility for abuse of authority – not only criminal, but also disciplinary. It is important that the police commissions considering disciplinary offenses should include the public representatives and other independent persons who could objectively assess the situation,” noted Mykola Havronyuk.

Volodymyr Zhydenko, on his part, noted that the new disciplinary statute draft, which is now being developed, provides for public participation in the disciplinary commissions.

It is necessary to conduct constant training of the police and raise awareness of citizens

According to Yevgen Krapyvin, expert at the “Police is under control”, Association of Ukrainian monitors of human rights in law enforcement, the police must work out guidelines for police patrol, which will specify the standard procedures, such as specific reasons for using special means, surface inspection, algorithm of actions for each typical situation. “The problem is in how the police are evaluating the situation. (…) Of great importance is training and modeling of typical situations. The practiced algorithms should take root in their minds,” noted Borys Malyshev.

Mustafa Nayyem added that all innovations should be accompanied by explanatory work with citizens. Citizens should also know their rights and duties.

The new patrol police should be involved in discussions of legislative initiatives

“They deal with offenders and law-abiding citizens and implement these standards. That is why we should consider their opinions,” noted Vladyslav Vlasyuk representative of the LeadOffice. Volodymyr Zhydenko informed that currently 90% of patrol officers are the new people who have not worked in the system.

“Many of the National Police’s initiatives are clear, adequate, but the lack of motivation and explanation of reasons results in false interpretations (…) such as the establishment of a police state or the presumption of innocence of the police,” noted Mustafa Nayyem. The relevant committee of the Verkhovna Rada or the National Police can become such a platform for discussions.

He noted that LEADOffice – Office for supporting law enforcement reforms – hopes to become a moderator in this process as an independent analytical center and to initiate new legislative initiatives related to domestic regulations and policy documents. “We hope to become an effective platform for substantive expert conversations that will help police better work for the benefit of society,” noted Vladyslav Vlasyuk. He added that LEADOffice is open to cooperation with other analytical centers and NGOs.

The problem of staff shortage in the National Police is being gradually solved

Volodymyr Zhydenko informed that the commissions continue to staff up the National Police to replace police officers who have not been re-certified. The commissions have been established in all regions. They started staffing-up in eleven regions. He also noted that soon the new draft law on criminal offenses will decrease the burden on investigators. “Certain categories of articles will be regarded as “criminal minor offenses”, for which a simpler procedure will be applied. It will be applied from the moment of the offense commission to the prosecution,” he explained.

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