Ukrainians witnessed another display of their government’s commitment to help improve their country in the form of vast police reforms.
On July 4, the first class of new patrol police recruits was sworn in during an official ceremony in Kyiv’s St. Sophia Square. Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior started building the new police force in January as a first step toward countrywide reform.
Two thousand recruits were selected from more than 33,000 applicants. The recruits were trained to address human trafficking and domestic violence — more pressing problems now because of the current situation in Ukraine. U.S. police trainers from Ohio, Nevada and California held monthlong, hands-on sessions with the new recruits, covering patrol tactics, communication and ways of being more responsive to citizens.
More than 20 percent of Kyiv’s new patrol police are women — a higher percentage than in most U.S. police forces.
In March, Kyiv held an open competition for the public to inspect and vote on new patrol car designs. To build trust between police and civilians, the new design had to be easily recognizable and “friendly looking” to the public.
As part of the reform, recruits were given less militaristic uniforms and renamed “politsiya” (police) from “militsiya” (militia). The young officers also pledged to refuse bribes, which in the past had contributed to the force’s reputation as being one of Ukraine’s most corrupt public-sector services.
America’s investment in Ukraine is “founded on a commitment to helping to build a new police force which is honest, guided by rule of law, and free from corruption,” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt told the crowd at the swearing-in ceremony.
He echoed the words of Vaidotas Verba, an OSCE project coordinator in Ukraine, who attended the recruits’ graduation ceremony two days before. “The public should possess the right and means to assess police performance,” Verba said.
“Remember that in the most difficult moments, you are not alone,” Pyatt told the new officers. “Ukraine has many friends in the international community.”
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