What is the role of the police in your country?

Marta from Spain
Arthur from Russia
Soraya from Morocco
Oleksandr from Ukraine
Brion from Ireland
Muhammed from Turkey
Karoliina from Finland
William from the UK
Elijah from Ghana
Joginte from Lithuania
Diana from Austria
Irina from Georgia
Anna from Greece
Josephine from Australia
Mehmet from Turkey
Marta from Spain

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  • When trust in the police is under discussion

    T he death of a black man has yet again sparked a large-scale protest and civil unrest in the United States. The shooting of the 37-year-old Alton Sterling by two police offers, filmed by a bystander, lead to incomprehension and outrage.

    The incident is yet another case of police involved violence against (unarmed) civilians and raises questions about the role of the police in the US. Because of these incidents Americans had the lowest level of trust in the police in 22 years. Last year, only a little more than half of the US citizens declared to have confidence in the institution.

    European research shows that in The Netherlands, Lithuania and the United Kingdom this level of trust is about 60 percent. In Finland almost 90 percent of the people have faith in the police.

    “Trust is not simply a byproduct of providing high quality service delivery or lowering the crime rate,” says psychological scientist Tom Tyler. “Research shows that the subjective experience of being policed matters.” Tyler formulated four important aspects that determines our trust in the police: public participation, neutrality, respect en trustworthiness.

    In almost every single country our correspondents live in, the police is conflicted with one or more of these points. However, our correspondents have different experiences with the cops. Swipe, click or tap through their stories to find out.

    Do you have something to add? Leave your comment or join as a correspondent in your country.

  • When being young and going out includes a fine

    Marta Campabadal (20)

    Barcelona, Spain

    I f you have not received a fine from a policeman on a night of party with your friends, you are not a proper young person in Spain. Policemen are always fining people who drink alcohol in the streets. The fine is 12 euro if you pay it immediately. This isn’t a big problem, but still annoying.

    I consider the police-citizen relationship not a very friendly one. It is not that we are scared of them, but that they don’t give you trust. Also, they tend to be kind of pimp, because they know they have a power that you don’t and they take advantage of that.

    "They chase you to catch you doing something wrong" This happens with car fines: police hide themselves in places where everyone drives faster than they are allowed to and they fine you for speeding. In fact, what we as citizens feel that policemen do, is chase you so they can catch you doing something wrong.

    I think that the relationship we have with the policemen should improve, because they are people that do social service and some of them are ready to help, but sadly that is not the majority.

  • Nowadays the police work is public because of camera's

    Arthur Kropanev (24)

    Saint Petersburg, Russia

    I n Russia police service is mostly just a job. And in these terms you should consider people who work as police employees. Most of the people work there because of salary and social package, which is very convenient, considering the current economic situation in the state.

    Unfortunately, safety of the citizens is not the highest priority for the police staff. Instead of preventing actual crime, they often exceed their official authority for different purposes. And the reasons for that are usually of the financial nature.

    Once, my friends were in need of a refrigerator for their room in a dormitory. A classmate of them agreed to give them a refrigerator thus my friends had to go to another dormitory to pick it up. Distance between point A, their dormitory block and point B where they were going to take their refrigerator was approximately 500 metres.

    "We spent 5 hours in a police department" On their way there, a police car passing nearby stopped them. Policemen, who stepped out of the car were convinced by whatever facts that my friends had actually stolen that refrigerator. In the end they spent 5 hours in a police department trying to persuade the policemen that they in fact did have a mutual agreement.

    That happened before the Russian government allowed to film policemen in action. Nowadays the policemen work is considered public and can be filmed using a camera without any consequences, according to the Article 8 of the Federal Law N 3-FZ. This really helps a lot in such abovementioned minor cases of police brutality.

  • A bundle of money will get you out of your mess

    Soraya Adny

    Casablanca, Morocco

    M orocco has never had a good reputation concerning human rights. Stories of torture and corruption always make the headlines in the international press. In my country, when you have a problem with the policemen, it’s always crucial to make full use of your links or to give a bundle of money to get out of your mess.

    But not all the Moroccan policemen are like that. Also, since the arrival of the new director of the police in Morocco Abdellatif Hammouchi, some of the rules changed and Moroccans noticed a certain revolution that is growing slowly but surely within the police.

    "Some of them continue their inappropriate intimidation" Abdellatif Hammouchi is known for being cold and serious, but this man glorified the image of the Moroccan police in the world. Everyone saw and noticed the good quality of the Moroccan police when the Paris and Brussels attacks happened. The ambition of this man made him decide to brush up the image of the Moroccan police. Still, the latter doesn’t seem shaken by the new decision and some of them continue their inappropriate intimidation.

    Like this time when I was once with some friends and we decided to spend the night together. After partying, we felt tired and I suggested to them to spend the night with me at home.

    While driving, the gendarmes decided to make us apart. The latter began to yell and to criticize the fact that two girls were attended by two boys in the middle of the night. He didn’t say it but his perception of the things was clear: we were ‘whores’. After one hour of stress and intimidation, the gendarmes requested us to give them about 1000 dirhams (92 euro). But after asking about our jobs, they decided to release us considering my position as a journalist in Morocco.

    NB: What I’ve written about the Moroccan police is not a critic. I’m not with and neither against it but I only wanted to describe some facts and incidents that certainly happened to many young people of my country.

  • The new police in Ukraine is a good step forward

    Oleksandr Yaroshchuk (23)

    Kyiv, Ukraine

    T wo years ago during the Euromaidan revolutions, Ukrainians demanded changes. One of them was the reform of the police.

    In 2015, Ukraine changed its law and created a new body: the National Police of Ukraine. Hundreds of newly recruited police officers appeared on the streets and started their work. Their main tasks are to provide public security, protect human rights and state interests, to counter crime and to help people when they need assistance.

    "People start to trust them" This was and still is one of the major reforms that happened in Ukraine during last two years. When new policemen and policewomen appeared on the streets in Kyiv in July 2015, many people used to take selfies with them. Almost everyone, including me, consider them as a shift towards a more human and accountable police force. People start to trust them. Ukrainians believe that they can make changes.

    Nevertheless, not everything has changed. There are lots of tasks ahead and the reform process will take from 5 to 7 years to complete.

    Personally, I appreciate this move, but I think that it is not enough. There are only a few new police officers, there is more to be done – we need to recruit much more new people and incorporate new progressive standards into legislation.

    Even though, people mostly think that new police, in contrast to Soviet-era militia, is a good step forward.

  • Young people don't hate the Garda, but we don't trust them

    Brion Hoban (20)

    Dublin, Ireland

    A n Garda Síochána (the official name of Ireland’s police force) is not the most well-respected institution in the country. It is more commonly thought of as a trade, rather than a law enforcement agency. A cobbler makes shoes, a carpenter makes chairs and a Garda catches you speeding.

    On St. Patrick’s Day, my friends and I play a game. The winner is the person who spots a single Garda among the hundreds who is actually doing something worthwhile. None of us has ever won this game.

    "Abuse of power is so common in Irish history that is hard to forget" My generation does not trust the Garda. Abuse of power is so common in recent Irish history that it is hard not to be suspicious of any who wield it. In the 70’s a group of Garda nicknamed ‘The Heavy Gang’ travelled the country beating confessions out of suspects. These are hard things to forget.

    The organisation of the service is a mess. Only the Garda to whom you report a crime is empowered to investigate it. No other (possibly more experienced) Garda can take over the investigation.

    The young people of Ireland do not hate An Garda Síochána. We are, however, grateful that they (for the most part) do not carry firearms.

  • The role of the police is a hot topic in Turkey

    Muhammed Bacalan (22)

    Istanbul, Turkey

    P olice forces and their powers in Turkey is a hot topic for many ongoing debates. What caused most of these debates was how the police handled the Gezi Park Protests, which started in Istanbul and spread around the whole country.

    When the police forces were ordered to end the protests, what started as a peaceful act of publicly expressing opinions turned into a violent defense of democratic rights. There were many injured civilians and sadly, even deaths during these events.

    "Many times we see police squads inside the campus" My personal experience with the police forces was right at the campus and faculty I studied at. Many times we would see armored vehicles and police squads inside the campus so they can prevent a group of leftist students from protesting against the government. It was also possible to see them inside the faculty and the reason for them to be there was to remove some posters which they saw as anti-government propaganda.

    However, there is also a lot of symphaty for the police when they are injured or killed by acts of terrorism. I find it safe to say that just like many political debates in Turkey, the line between opinions on the police and their powers is a very distinct one.

  • Police are human – and maybe that's why we trust them

    Karoliina Toivakka (22)

    Helsinki, Finland

    I n Finland the general trust in the police has been very high as long as I am able to remember. According to an annual survey, about 90 percent of the Finns trust the police 'a lot' or 'quite a lot'. And that's quite a lot I must say.

    But really, when thinking about negative news concerning our police forces, only a few cases pop up in my mind. Good things? A lot of them.

    I still remember how exciting it was for a little school girl when policemen visited our school every now and then. We were even able to see how the police car looked like inside.

    "They are human, not just an authority" During the later years I've seen Facebook posts of cute puppies that will be trained to be police dogs and watched tv series showing what the job of a police is like. You see the inside jokes of the officers. They are human, not just an authority.

    In my friend group I have been able to see a slight change in attitude towards the police after what has happened during the past years. The former head of Helsinki drug unit police, Jari Aarnio, is now suspected of also being the head of a wide drug dealing circle. But during the scandal many surveys have showed that the general opinion on police still has not really changed.

    So, is it just propaganda or do we actually have a well organized and functioning police institution? I guess it is a bit of both.

  • The main objectors of the police are young people

    William Macmaster (21)

    Southampton, England

    B y many people, both from the UK and elsewhere in the world, the British police are considered some of the best in the world.

    Although, some people do feel animosity towards police. This seems to be a fairly valid statement. The majority of the older people hold positive feelings towards them and people generally do feel safe guarded by police.

    The main objectors to the police are young people. Growing up in a small town, there is not much to do and some young people in the area are prone to juvenile activities and because of this you are tarred with the same brush.

    "You're always wary of being targeted by police" So when you are growing up, whether you had done something or not, you were always wary of being targeted by police.

    It was not so much the issue of being pulled up, but it was the way the police tended to talk to you in an arrogant and patronising tone. They often also told you to leave areas for no reason or randomly search you.

    This method of policing often provokes situations more than anything which can lead to further issues. The classic response is to ask them why they didn’t have anything better to do than harass us.

    However, some police do seem to get the best way to connect with young people and don’t talk to them like criminals. One officer in particular, endearingly called PC Shane by many in the community, was received well due to having pleasant exchanges with many young people in the area, being fairly lenient and also occasionally giving us cigarettes.

    This is a more effective technique which should be adopted more often by officers when dealing with young people.

  • The police is in Ghana the most corrupt state institution

    Elijah Adansi-Bonah (39)

    Accra, Ghana

    T he public consider Ghana Police Service (GPS) as corrupt and extorters. We see the police as undisciplined, abusive and bribe takers. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) named GPS as the most corrupt state institution.

    One of the core functions of the service, as stated in the Police Service Act, is to apprehend and prosecute offenders. The laws of Ghana do not permit them to extort and abuse suspects but the contrary happens in my country.

    "The rich are often left off the hook" Many drivers fold money into the policeman's hand anytime they are pulled over. Those who refuse to pay a bribe are the ones often punished. The rich in society and political figures are often left off the hook.

    Due to over speeding, the police once asked my friend and I for money but we declined. When they realized that we were on a national assignment as student leaders of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), they warned us but allowed us to go.

    In my opinion, the society must have the discipline to challenge the police officer extorting money whilst performing any official duty. There should be ombudspersons selected by the state who would impartially investigate complaints against the police. On the spot fines should be introduced in order to eliminate or minimize police extortions.

  • Trust is growing, but we're still fighting against corruption

    Joginte Uzusienyte (24)

    Vilnius, Lithuania

    I live in a postsoviet country where police had to take a long way to restore its public image. Police's main problems were weak laws and low wages which led to prosper mutual distrust and corrruption. Many years it was a normal practice to pay under the table for various reasons – not to get a speeding fine, to avoid responsibility for a car accident or to help your friend or relative in other illegal activities.

    We are still fighting against corruption in law enforcement agencies, but recent survey shows that confidence in police is growing: about 59 percent of Lithuanian society answered that they trust it.

    "My friends don't feel any impact of police" My friends shared with me that they don't feel any serious impact of police on their lives, but, in their opinion, they still lack more polite and friendly interaction.

    Personally, I was caught by police officers only for public drinking in 2014 and it wasn't a bad experience, because I knew that I broke a law. There have been also situations for loud parties at home, but Lithuanian police always wanted to help and to find the best solution.

    When my Italian friends came to visit me last year, after a few days they asked me: “Do you have any police here?“. I laughed, because I remembered my experiences in Italy and USA where you see policemen everywhere and feel a threat of a possible terror attack.

    I'm glad that more and more I don't need to be afraid of people whose main job is to ensure order and peace in our society.

  • When I see the police, I get a strange feeling in my guts

    Diana Kohler (21)

    Vienna, Austria

    W hen I was a child I read a funny little book, in which cute little policemen were giving directions and helping old ladies. As I got older, I started following the news.

    Each year in January, the far right Austrian party FPÖ organises a ball. People who participated are among others Marine Le pen and Hungarian right wing politician László Toroczkai, who has some very radical opinions about refugees and the European Union.

    "Friends of me got kicked, beaten up and dragged away on the street" Each year left wing groups organise protests against this ball. In 2014 the police acted the most violent against the protesters. Some people were peaceful, some were acting more aggressive. But police forces acted highly unprofessional, didn’t deescalate the situation. Friends of me got kicked, beaten up and dragged away on the street, even though they were not proactive.

    In July 2015, a man in handcuffs got beaten up by two police men in a small street in Vienna. Fortunately somebody filmed the incident from their flat window. The man was totally calm and didn’t resist his arrest. None of the policemen got convicted.

    On New Years’ Eve 2016 a slighty drunk woman got mistreated by police. She declined an alcohol test, even though she was not with a car. Her tailbone got broken, she suffered from bruises and hit her head on the concrete floor. Now not the attackers, but herself is accused. For civil disorder.

    I never had a serious encounter with the police in Austria. But when I see them, I get a strange feeling in my guts. When a minor incident or a peaceful protest can harm you that much, and you have just a little chance to get justice, how save are you in their premises?

  • Georgia grew from corruption to a mostly fair country

    Irina Kvelidze (21)

    Tbilisi, Georgia

    A fter the Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia has come a long way and grew from corruption to a mostly fair country. Of course, we have our issues with the police, but personally, I like the ‘new’ police.

    After the revolution the crime rate has dropped significantly. Also, police and people are trying to learn principles of law and obey them. We are always shocked when we hear about killings or robberies, because we are not accustomed to it anymore.

    "There's still enough progress to make" A few months ago I worked for the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a translator. My job was to translate for foreigners in my country. I found out that the officials are not crucial towards them. They treated the foreigners with dignity and tried to solve their problems as they would treat their citizens. But still, we can’t generalize it to all of them.

    But there’s still enough progress to make. For example the drug policy. In Georgia all the drugs are illegal. From time to time we find out that the police are in the streets, arresting (mostly) guys and making them pee in order to determine whether they have used drugs or not. This procedure is not legal or illegal.

    Nowadays, citizens and politicians are trying to make drug-laws softer so that the Georgians won’t feel ashamed and abused.

  • We need to refine how we see the police

    Anna Plomaritou (22)

    Thessaloniki, Greece

    B ecause of the economic crisis and the refugee problem, the police officers in Greece have been witnessing practices and attitudes that devalue the institution and affects crucial sense of honor and dignity of the average policeman.

    Τhe root of the problem lies in the way in which successive governments use the police as a central mechanism for dealing with political or social problems. The police are not the boxing bag for relieving (fair or unfair) indignation of different social groups. In most cases, it should be used as a last resort, after having exhausted all political means to manage a problem.

    "Their role is to protect us, not to fight with us" Unfortunately, we have constantly incidents of violence (molotov, tear gas, gunshots) and accidents, both by police officers as much as citizens. That is why you need to refine how we see the police, because their role is to protect us, not to fight with us.

    My peers underestimate the role of police due to the non-implementation of laws and the culture of impunity (in hooligans, protestors). If the state starts punish exemplary, as part of the law, a small number of offenders and systematically implement this policy, the results would be impressive.

  • There is a widespread aversion to authority in Australia

    Josephine Zavaglia (23)

    Brisban, Australia

    A ustralia has a history of police corruption in many of its’ states and legislation for the scope of police action is changed for special events or circumstances.

    At the G20 Summit of Leaders in Brisbane in November 2014, the G20 (Safety and Security) Act 2013 was introduced to increase the authority of the police during this summit. These laws greatly impinged on people’s ability to peacefully protest.

    Culturally there is a widespread aversion to authority in Australia. For instance, drivers will flicker their headlights to warn other drivers if there are police ahead.

    "Police presence is often referred to as the ‘Nanny State’" Police presence is often referred to as the ‘Nanny State’. This is because of the wide possibility of punishable offences a person can commit in Australia.

    In Queensland, a littering infringement – including throwing a cigarette-butt on the ground – warrants a $245 AUD (160 Euros) fine from the police. I learnt this the hard way.

    Police presence is a large part of public life. At festivals, markets and other public places we are often reminded of the coercive power of the state by weapon-clad officers staunchly walking amongst the crowds.

  • Police's heroic image is crushed in the eyes of youth

    Mehmet Karpuz (23)

    Istanbul, Turkey

    I n Turkey, the police’s power depends on the political atmosphere and the current political interests of the rulers. Since President Erdogan controls the police as he rules the whole government, what the police mean to you is what you feel about him and his current policy.

    Nowadays, the police have a major part in the conflict between Kurdish fighters and the government. Both sides of the conflict causes great suffering. Most of the Turkish people see the police as heroes, though some Kurdish people see the police as killers of their children. We hear deaths day after day.

    "The police comes into question by using excessive force" Beside the roll of the police in the conflict, usually the police comes into question by using excessive force, especially in peaceful protests. For example, twelve civilian died during the ‘Gezi Protests’ in 2013. ‘’The police have made a great history’’ said Erdogan. One of the victims was a 19 year old student of my university. The day he was killed by the police and some other people, I was at the same place with him.

    Generally the police gets away with charges, but the good thing is that the police’s heroic image was crushed in the eyes of youth during the Gezi Protests.

  • Many parties accuse the police of violating freedom

    Marta Casado (20)

    Barcelona, Spain

    I n Spain, talking about police is quite controversial. They portray themselves as a responsible and organized group, in charge of maintaining the security of society. However, the conception people have about them is very different.

    Excessive use of force, an increasing number of protesters being fined and the creation of stigmas among social movements are some of the numerous effects of police intervention in Spain.

    "Two guilty officers were set free without sentence" The case of Ester Quintana has become one of the most striking examples of police repression. She lost her eye due to a rubber ball shot by the police when she attended a protest during the general strike in 2012. After many years of legal action, the case was recently closed when the two guilty police officers were set free without sentence.

    This has turned into a political fight. Many parties are accusing the police of violating the freedom of expression whilst others insist on the need of these organisms to maintain the order of our society.