Post-communist Ukraine has long struggled to reform its judicial system and rid itself of pervasive and systematic petty and serious corruption—one of the many poisonous legacies experienced by all post-Soviet states. I recently interviewed Oleksandr Marusiak, an articulate and serious 25-year old from Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, who is part of a new breed of young people being recruited to reform and modernize the country’s police and its policing methods. As he described his on-the-ground experience in the recruiting and training process, I couldn’t help but be hopeful that, despite the continuing problems in Kyiv, some reforms just might be taking hold in the provinces. Here’s why:
MOTYL: How did you apply for and get the job?
MARUSIAK: At the beginning of December 2015, I responded to an online “call for applications” for the post of instructor of patrol police officers. The Chernivtsi Province Department of National Police (a regional agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) was looking for experts in 22 disciplines. Instructors were supposed to have a variety of qualifications, such as teaching experience, strong communication and organizational skills, and the like. The announcement asked that applicants submit their resume to a special electronic address and note their preferred area of instruction. I chose “Defining Criminal Offences and the Bases of Criminal Procedures,” inasmuch as I had received a Master’s degree in criminal law from the Odessa University Law School in 2013.
About a week later, I was invited for an interview with three officials, two from Kyiv (both members of the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program Office in Ukraine—ICITAP), one, a defense attorney, from Chernivtsi. During the interview they asked about my work experience, teaching methods, and knowledge of the topic. Among the specific questions they asked were: “How would you explain the importance of understanding your subject area to police officers? How does theft differ from robbery? With which crimes must police officers be most familiar?” That same day, they called again and told me I had gotten the job and that I should attend a general methodological training session for instructors.
In all, I attended three such mandatory training sessions. At the first one, several Kyiv instructors who had already worked with police officers shared their experience with us, emphasizing the pedagogical differences between training sessions and university courses (which I had already taught) and highlighting the kinds of problems they encountered in teaching police officers and the solutions they developed. The other two sessions were specialized, focusing on the subjects we had chosen. All of us received electronic versions of all the instructional materials, as well as slides.
MOTYL: Were the training sessions useful? Were the materials presented objectively and professionally?
MARUSIAK: These sessions were useful for me, because I had had no such training before, and it helped me to understand the educational specificities involved in teaching police officers. I also had no complaints about the quality of the materials, as they were logically and clearly presented.
MOTYL: Did you develop your own curriculum?
MARUSIAK: No, it had already been prepared by the ICITAP experts. My class consisted of 11 meetings and an examination. Each session was structured in the following manner. We’d start with a quiz on the previous day’s materials and with an analysis of their answers to the questions. Then we’d move on to a practical analysis of their homework, sometimes as a whole class, sometimes in teams. We’d end by discussing new material, which would then serve as the subject of the next session’s quiz.
MOTYL: Were the students interested? Did they take the course seriously? How many weeks did the course last?
MARUSIAK: The course lasted three weeks. Of course, this is a rather short time for understanding such a complicated subject, but it was enough for the students to get a rudimentary understanding of common criminal offences and legal procedures. Students took the course seriously, as they recognized that their future work directly depended on what they learned. Moreover, they understood that questions of self-defense and the legal liability of police officers are also a matter of criminal law in Ukraine.
MOTYL: How many students did you have and who were they?
MARUSIAK: I taught seven classes of about 30 students per class. In general, they were 21- to 35-years old. Women were about a third. Some students were former employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs or advanced law-school students; some were recently demobilized soldiers who had served in eastern Ukraine; some had backgrounds in geography, biology, theology, and computer programming; some had no higher education.
MOTYL: Did they tell you why they had signed up?
MARUSIAK: Many joined because they believed in and wanted to be part of the reforms taking place in Ukraine’s system of law and order. Some confessed they were attracted by the high salary. Many just wanted to try something new.
MOTYL: Did you encounter any corruption in the process?
MOTYL: Were you surprised?
MARUSIAK: Somewhat. But there were several anti-corruption safeguards at work. First, we received a high salary, at least compared to what I earned teaching at the university. Second, instructors were provided with the quizzes just before they were supposed to be administered. Third, the students completed the final examination electronically. Fourth, the officer students evaluated our performance at the end of the session. Finally, we instructors also evaluated the officers with respect to their leadership abilities, ability to work in a team, motivation, and so on.
MOTYL: What are your general impressions of this aspect of reform in Ukraine?
MARUSIAK: I liked it. All stages of the educational process were fully transparent and practically focused, and the students were highly motivated. I wish that the next part of police reform in Ukraine would be at least half as successful as this one was.