login | registration | forgot the password
newsmail subscribe:

Public opinion on militia work criterion, emotions or profanation?

27.04.11 | Denys Kobzin, translated by Maria Kolokolova
Recently, at the beginning of April 2011 on the official web site of the Ministry of Interior Headquarters in Kharkov region (www.police.kharkov.ua) online-survey on the evaluation of the militia work appeared. Developers of the Internet questionnaire offered everyone to answer a simple question: How do you estimate the work of Kharkiv militia? Options were: positive, negative and doubt with answer. Quite unexpectedly, the questionnaire caused a strong interest among the Internet audience, and within two days the number of votes reached three thousand people. Splash of interest to this type of questionnaire and, accordingly, a significant increase on-site traffic of Regional Headquarters can be explained by the fact that there is a need for evaluation of the militia activity and a feedback from society. On the one hand, it would make possible to reveal how people really perceive the militias work. On the other hand, - it would become a basis for dialogue and some sort of adjustment of relations and improvement of activity in future. The fundamental change of the current system of indicators in the Ministry of Interior, which are recognized inefficient and even to a certain extent destructive for activity of law - enforcement by everyone (including militia officers), could become one of the major results of such initiative.
As an example, we can refer to USA and UK experience. Thus, American criminologists have began experimenting with alternative methods of evaluation and used public surveys to measure the crime rate and the effectiveness of police work since the 1960s. First reports caused serious debate first of all on what measure police statistics trends reflect current trends in crime rates or only trends in crime records. However, after student protests in the USA, France and UK the method has became more and more popular, primarily because it allows to avoid bias and a prejudice in the police statistics and eccentricities, which are overflowed in citizens reports.
Its important to note, that transition from one set of indicators of activity effectiveness to others in these countries wasnt momentary and was faced a certain resistance from part of police officers. Thus, police management criticized results of public surveys, accusing them of subjectivity and ignorance of specific character of professional activity. However, negotiation hadnt been interrupted, that allowed to work out compromise models in the future. Using sociological measurements in UK has been applied everywhere since 1990, when Home Office labeled them at first as one of and then as main method for measuring satisfaction with the police work. Results of surveys, which were originally provided to the Headquarters and police administration, are now available to everybody. The trust to these polls increased every year and in 1999 the Home Office issued a recommendation that such research should become an annual and the sample should increase to 40 000 households (almost twice). Another important recommendation was that the survey results should be published together with reports and statistics of the police in order to facilitate their comparison and to make more objective view of crime rates and police effectiveness.
The police in the USA use similar methods, despite the fact, that public opinion surveys are not mandatory for police. At the same time many American police departments use a resource of civil society organizations in order to evaluate and plan their activity. Thus, in Chicago regular citizens forums are held, oriented on decision of social problems, and where tasks for police are formulated. In some cities of Iowa in every district groups of effectiveness were formed in which representatives of municipal power, police, as well as community were included and in their work the police activity was discussing and evaluating.
We should admit that in Ukraine attempts of introduction public opinion surveys on police activity were undertaken. However, experience of providing such surveys showed that militia administration does not always trust the public opinion and does not consider evaluation quite professional, and is unlikely that the militia will rely on it to evaluate own actions. Although precedents of successful estimation nevertheless had place thus, administration of the Militia Headquarters in Lviv Region used the method of estimation of its activity through eyes of the population in 2007.
A banal financial lacks is pointed as one of the reasons to stop this kind of evaluation gaining a foothold in the Ministry of Interior system. Thats why polls stay as some sort of insufficient professional tool, which time to time are realized by Centers of Public Relations for internal use. Quite naturally that such approach led to the public mistrust to results of surveys and low acquaintance. We cant also overlook the fact that in set of researches of such centers as Institute of sociology of National Academy of Science of Ukraine, Kyiv-Mohila Academy, Gorshenin Institute, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, which aimed at study of citizens fears, time after time there are blocks of questions which oriented on evaluation of crime rates. Taking to attention, that exactly fear of becoming a victim of crime is one of key indicators of militia effectiveness, these researches would become invaluable source of information for its management. Unfortunately, during the implementation the experience of such surveys in the system of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine important aspects of their effectiveness were ignored independence, objectivity (carried surveys was entrusted to Centers for Public Relations of Ministry of Interior of Ukraine a subdivision, which is dealing with support of militia image), reliability (the surveys are conducted without observance of sociological procedures to ensure validity of obtained data). Thus, for example, in analytic materials of the Militia Headquarters in Kharkiv Region was information about 86 public surveys, held in 2008 with about 500 respondents. We can calculate that in average one survey covered 6 persons. On the website of the Militia Headquarters in Odessa region there are results of regular public surveys about militia activity are adduced, during which from 15 to 50 persons were interviewed (http://odessa.umvd.gov.ua/-). But exactly preparation quality of such survey (calculation of a sample and observance of survey procedure) provides results that would not be trusted. Ignoring all these important elements of research turns it into absolutely formality or imitation of survey.
One exception we can consider a revolutionary experiment in its scale and methods, which took place in Kharkiv region in 2000-2003. In a process of the joint project of the National University of Internal Affairs, the Lord Scarmans Center at the Lesters University (UK) and the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine in Kharkiv Region an unprecedented attempt to change methods of militia work with citizens in two districts the Cominternovskiy and the Solonitsevskiy were undertook. During three years in these districts new methods of police activity, based on the public support (community policing) were being introduced. Note that among many activities which took place (meetings with representatives of community, PR-campaign, creating in the structure of district militia offices position of community liaison officer and so on) sociological survey as a new method of evaluation of militia work, which completes exiting statistic data, was also used. Thus, during this project 1000 respondents in each of the Cominternovskiy and the Solonitsevskiy districts were interviewed. However, in spite of experiment was considered successful in the region as well as in the Ministry of Interior, and its results were estimated highly by international experts, the most developments havent received further implementation and havent widely used in the police work.
So today we can state some sort of stalemate many executives and ordinary militia officers, Prosecutors Office, the Ministry of Justice understand that current evaluation system of the militia work and the criminal situation became obsolete, but at the same time they dont see a possibility of going beyond in-system reporting that closes the circle. Unfortunately, providing opportunities for independent evaluation of law-enforcement and collecting data on police effectiveness with open procedures, based on the measurement of public opinion, causes a lot of fears for many officials. Among them the most common fear is that the work of professionals will be evaluated by amateurs and that people can not correctly interpret the information.
Another attempt to break an ice was made in 2010 by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches supported by the International Renaissance Foundation. On a scale of Kharkiv the sociological research was carried out, that allowed to evaluate the work of all the 9 district militia departments, as well as to study some aspects of social attitudes to militia. In particular, the study found that 30,8% of Kharkiv citizens believe that the militia does its work well, and 27,6% - are ready to help police at any situation. These indicators are not so significant and polled pointed at the shortcomings inherent in the militia, but all the same survey data indicates that part of the population is ready to cooperate and is satisfied with the interaction, which has already occurred. Results of the study and methodology are publicly available and can be used by everyone. In addition, research was presented at the working meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Interior, the General Prosecutors Office, Verkhovna Rada, the Ministry of Justice, the media and NGOs in Kiev in December 2010, where it was highly appreciated (including the management board of the Center of Public Relations of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine). Proposals for cooperation repeatedly submitted to the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine and to the Department of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine in Kharkiv region, however, have remained unanswered.
At the end of discussion of the issue of new methods for evaluation of the militia work, we would like to go back to story with the Internet survey, which took place on the website of the Department of Ministry of Interior of Ukraine in Kharkiv region. According to the survey, 109 respondents from 2,760 who voted for 3 days estimated a work of the militia as positive, and the another 27 - were doubt to answer. This means that the ratio of respondents, who evaluated a militia work as positive and negative was 95 to 1. By the evening of the third day of polling the survey results on the website were corrected - the ratio became 1 to 1. People had continued the evaluation, and the poll was replaced by another neutral and uninteresting for the audience. While considering the organization of the survey and the fact that one person could vote several times, it seems that results were not credible and were worthless in any case. Maybe its time to approach the issue professionally?