On January 10, a remarkable incident happened in the center of Yerevan. The driver of a heavy SUV drove on the sidewalks, ran over patrol officers, and the latter, despite various attempts, were not able to neutralize him.
The incident caused considerable public debate. There were claims that not all patrol officers in the area blocked the SUV “Hummer” with cars and not all of them tried to stop him with firearms.
Although most of the officers did try to neutralize the driver of the Hummer, it is worth attempting to reveal the reasons behind the unjustified caution of some patrol officers.
The establishment process of the Patrol Service started in 2020. The Charter was also written back then. It established the basic principles of service and actions of patrol officers in standard situations. The education of the patrol officers was based on the premise that if they follow the principles of action and service in standard situations, the police system will protect them, and if they violate them, they will be punished.
The patrol service began to operate in Yerevan in July 2021, and in Shirak and Lori provinces – in April 2022. When we study the picture of rewards and punishment during this period, we can observe that the principles set before the patrol service officers from the beginning were not respected by the police system.
We received from the Police of the Republic of Armenia the statistics of the disciplinary sanctions applied by Police Chief Vahe Ghazaryan against the police officers during the year 2022 as a result of the official investigations conducted by the Internal Security Department (ISD). During the year, 253 police officers were fined by the Chief of Police, 146 of them are patrol officers. It turns out that about 58 percent of the fined officers are patrol service officers.
In other words, at the end of last year, about 1,300 patrol service officers in Armenia received more disciplinary punishment from Police Chief Vahe Ghazaryan than the rest (more than 10,000) of the police officers combined.
If these numbers were justified and reflected the quality of the service, it would turn out that the Patrol Service is the worst functioning unit.
As a consequence, the reform could be recognized as a failure, the Patrol Service could be disbanded and the Traffic Police could be restored. Looking at these numbers, a legitimate question arises as to why the state spends efforts and money to expand the Patrol Service if the service quality is so poor.
But a number of other indicators show that the Patrol Service is a success. In Yerevan, crime detection rate by the external service has increased by 2.5 times, and in Shirak and Lori marzes, by 14 times. The detection of wanted criminals increased 6 times, and the number of dangerous traffic violations (for example, driving while intoxicated) also increased many times.
It turns out that the Patrol Service performs the basic police functions much better than other police services, but at the same time receives ten times more disciplinary sanctions per unit number of officers than other services.
Moreover, almost all of these disciplinary penalties are for minor violations. And it sometimes reaches incredible levels of absurdity.
Thus, for example, a patrol officer who discovered a criminal drug-dealing group, did not receive the relevant reward, because a year before he had made a small mistake in completing the road traffic violation form and had been fined by Vahe Ghazaryan for the violation.
And there are many similar examples that send a clear message to the patrol service officers that what is important is the paperwork and bureaucratic part of the service and not the substance and the principles set by the charter.
This working style is, perhaps, typical of the entire police system (and even other forces), and is a heritage of the Soviet Union – giving priority not to principles, but to everything looking good “on paper”.
The Patrol Service was originally founded with a heavy emphasis on principles. But when dozens and hundreds of patrol service officers who solve crimes and do their job very well are fined for minor violations by the order of Vahe Ghazaryan, it is a lesson that the priority are not the principles and quality of service, but formality.
Errors for which no one was punished
In the course of the creation of the patrol service, many police officials made a number of errors undermining the reform of the patrol service, resulting in additional state budget expenses, and decline in the international reputation of Armenia. But no one has been held accountable for those errors.
Thus, for example, no one was called to account for the fact that the Yerevan regiment and regional battalions of the Patrol Service have radio communication with different protocols and frequencies and cannot communicate with each other.
No one was held accountable for the fact that the technical specifications for some equipment sent to US partners were written incorrectly, and as a result, the resulting equipment is “collecting dust” in the warehouse, and new equipment was procured instead with Armenian taxpayers’ money.
Nor is anyone held accountable for the fact that it takes months for Patrol vehicles to be repaired (52 percent of crashed Toyotas take more than 5 months to repair) because the money from the Compulsory Motor Vehicle Insurance is not transferred to the service centers.
And there are many such examples, showing that the police officials who obstructed the patrol service reform remain unpunished, and, instead, the patrol service officers who committed minor and formal violations are mercilessly punished.
The aforementioned numbers make it obvious that the police system led by Vahe Ghazaryan, on behalf of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is resisting the Patrol Service introduced as a result of police reforms. Carrying out a principled and quality police service is pushed into the background, bringing forward the slogans “away from trouble” and “everything is clean on paper”.
Daniel Ioannisyan and Lilit Ghazaryan
Union of Informed Citizens