10, 2017

Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan at the extended meeting of Police Board

Dear Generals and Officers,

Dear Police Officers,

You remember well that the idea of implementing the Safe Armenia goal was at the heart of my pre-election program. About five years ago, I saw today’s Armenia more protected and safe from threats.

While stating the positive and substantial progress made towards ensuring the country’s security, I think it is still too early to assess whether my expectations are fully justified. At the same time, I think that this meeting is a good opportunity to reveal the problems facing the Police and outline further steps.

In the last few months, there has been a concern among the public about several crimes committed in the country that have been talked about much in the media and have been touched upon in the preceding report. Some perceive it as the result of ineffective counteraction to crime by law enforcement agencies.

I am confident that the law enforcement agencies are in full control of the operational situation and there is no reason to panic. Nevertheless, I can not worry about our citizens’ anxiety. Public opinion for me is the best standard of law and order in the country. Yes, many people recognize that today’s policemen are more prepared and more positive. However, there is also bewilderment that the same police do not fully realize their potential.

I am convinced that the police have great potential to dispel the doubts, and the potential should be realized in full. In this regard I urge all of you to show full dedication to your service and boast new, significant and visible achievements in a very short time.

To solve this problem, you need both human and material resources. You also have my support as the Head of State and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief.

Dear Policemen,

I am sure you are well aware of the importance of the social function of the Police. I am also convinced that you know that the better the Police implement their mission, the more protected each member of society feels.

Indeed, you understand that under the new conditions of correlation of State bodies stemming from the constitutional reform the Police will face greater expectations on the part of society. Therefore, it is necessary to accurately diagnose the existing problems and plan future action.

I want to dwell on two important tasks. Firstly, the Police should be specifically responsible for the prevention of offenses. Obviously, the significance of preventive work in practice is too great. It is no coincidence that the Constitution allows for certain rights to be restricted both for the disclosure of the offenses and for the purpose of their prevention. We must admit that the Police have a lot to do in the field of crime prevention. The current state of affairs is far from being satisfactory.

It is also important that this was mentioned in the previous report. At the same time, we must understand that while stating a fact and seeing through the shortcomings is positive, but not at all satisfactory for achieving maximum result. The minimalist approach in the field of crime is unacceptable.

Naturally, this does not undermine the role of other components of your activity especially that of intelligence work. Operative-intelligence activities in the fight against crime are unique. Their correct, competent and timely implementation can not only hurt, but also effectively prevent the execution of crimes.

Dear Police Officers,

It is noteworthy that one of the most important factors in the prevention of offenses is the fight against illegal circulation of weapons and ammunition. The results of this work are actually far from being positively assessed.

Yes, there has been an increase in the detection of relevant cases during the reporting period. However, for ordinary citizens, it is not always possible to see the results of your work in this area. I say this, despite the fact that during the first years of independence, we faced uncontrolled circulation of weapons and ammunition. I mean the time of handover from the Soviet Army to the Republic of Armenia, as well as the turnover of the weapons acquired in the battles for the defense of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is understandable, but it happened 23-24 years ago, and we must cope with the consequences.

In fact, it seems to be somewhat strange. If there is counteraction with positive results, then how come that grave crimes are being committed in the daytime by the use of firearms in the eyes of many people? This phenomenon is also disturbing in the sense that such cases do not go down, but are gaining more courageous manifestations.

Illegally-held firearms and ammunition should be quickly detected and confiscated. Take this as one of your main tasks and my assignment for the coming months. But what I mean does not mean that there should be widespread round-ups and searches, hindering citizens’ rest in breach of their legitimate rights.

Strong sanctions should be imposed on such cases. It is about activating operative work, and in general, I believe that each instance of non-substantiated search should be investigated and relevant measures taken.

I must emphasize that your functions in the system of human rights are not limited to the prevention of crimes. You are supposed to play a not less important role in detecting crimes and identifying those who committed them. In this regard, your close cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, including national security and investigative bodies, is crucial. This of course can give positive results. I think the latest arrests on the case of robbery at one of the banks’ branches are the best proof of what is said.

Once again, I must say that the discovery of wanted persons remains a serious problem in the fight against crime. This is clearly visible not only from the figures provided above, but also from dozens of cases, sometimes ridiculous, revealed in practice.

Let me give just a few vivid examples. It turns out that in some cases criminal investigation was instituted 10 or 12 years after declaring a person to be wanted. That is to say, the person accused of the crime had not been worried for so long. Or, the person under investigation was able to change his / her personal data and get a new passport.

This speaks of the low level of cooperation between different police divisions. Or a single intelligence case was made up for a person investigated for various offences, and after the cessation of a criminal case, the whole investigation was suspended, as a result of which the criminal managed to escape prosecution.

Moreover, there was also a case when the police officer did not submit the case to the investigator after finding the wanted person, who did not report it in writing or verbally. However, the same officer sent a relevant card to the Police Information Center to stop the search, where the search was removed from the register.

There are many cases when intelligence-making is purely formal. As a result, an investigated person may stay in the country or at home for many years without having a bit of bother. In one case, no one bothered the man under investigation even for 24 years from 1993 to 2017. They are subsequently exempted from investigation on the basis of the expiry of the statute of limitations on criminal responsibility or simply becoming victims of another offense. Moreover, most of these persons are wanted for serious or particularly grave crimes, which is twice unacceptable and very dangerous.

All this indicates that there is no change in the situation in this area, to put it mildly. The effectiveness of detecting the target at least for the last five years varies between 31-34%, without considering those persons investigated for avoidance of military service under Article 327 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia. Otherwise, the detection rate reaches 14 percent at best. And if we add this to the fact that the Military Police are engaged in the search of military crimes, and the situation there is no better than here, we will have a figure less than 10 percent. That is, so many criminals are hiding from us, all of us. This is unacceptable.

Under such circumstances, it is important to analyze the causes of existing violations, shortcomings and omissions and take comprehensive measures to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

Dear Police Officers,

The second group of actions should mainly focus on ensuring public order and security in the country. Here I would like to emphasize a few. First of all, for many years Armenia has been recognized as a safe country as evidenced by those individuals who visited Armenia on different missions or just tourists. It is naturally inspiring.

At the same time, it should be noted that in recent years, Armenia’s performance has dropped according to some studies carried out by a number of international organizations. It is disturbing, especially as during the same period some of our neighbors have made a positive shift. In this case, I do not accept any justification.

I do not accept the allegations that many offences come to be concealed in other countries – others are doing so, they are doing that and so on... These are fairy tales that should be told to children. The international structures know very well about these circumstances and they have all the capabilities to find out the extent of crime in a specific country.

We must strive to make progress. Our goal is to hold a stable position among the world’s most secure and competitive countries. This goal, of course, contains an economic element in it. A safe environment undoubtedly promotes tourism development and investment growth. Additionally, I attach great importance to providing the necessary environment for social cohesion and solidarity. Here everyone should be able to exercise their rights or fulfill their responsibilities, not damaging the legitimate interests of others.

Certainly, there will always be such individuals as may try to achieve their own or group interests at the expense of those who exercise their constitutional rights and freedoms properly. Therefore, the Police should always be ready to respond adequately to such phenomena. The Police should observe from different perspectives the obvious offender and the conscientious citizen who exercises his professional or civil rights.

Let everyone mark my words: achieving a legitimate goal implies commensurate behavior. Unlawful interference by the authorities in human rights and freedoms is unacceptable even if the purpose is fair.

Dear Police Officers,

I can not help talking about traffic police. Its reform process has been and continues to be one of my priorities.

Certainly, we should positively assess the work done in this field. I think it is obvious for our drivers that contacts between traffic police and citizens have considerably improved in recent years. Also, we must recognize that the manifestations of abuse have been minimized.

Of course, a policeman must be smart in his work and not put up with offences. But that does not mean that the policeman should be on the street with a whip. The policeman should simply guide the citizens and show them the right way.

Under conditions of continuously intensifying traffic in Yerevan, clarity and cautiousness can sometimes be much more influential than fines. Such behavior will undoubtedly increase the respect and trust of the public towards the police officer. What I say is right, this does not mean anything else. This means that different methods should be used in the work.

I think that the Traffic Police Reform Concept as approved earlier this year will lead to tangible outcome in the near future. At the same time, I can not be indifferent to our citizens’ dissatisfaction with the guilty behavior of some traffic police officers.

Some officers have lost the sense of reality or are so confident in their own impunity that they come to be exposed to open corrupt behavior, in other words, show offensive behavior. They do not even bother with the fact that it is recorded on the cameras mounted on their uniform.

Dear Colleagues,

An abusive and corrupt police officer is evil for the system. They question and discredit the results of a great deal of work, hindering the full implementation of the fight against corruption in the system.

Conducting insider probes into police officers’ behavior and applying disciplinary penalties, as well as prosecutions in case of a crime are important, but not sufficient. It is necessary to find systematic solutions, thanks to which the whole system of police will really change. The Chief of Police says to me, “We have initiated 40 criminal cases against police officers. Believe me, even the number of criminal cases can not change the atmosphere, especially as we consider that most of those cases have not been launched at your own initiative.

It is important that middle-class officers, ordinary policemen, see the uncompromising struggle of police chiefs against various phenomena.

Be assured, if they see so they will think over twice before doing something. And in general, only in that way can it be possible to solve serious problems in the system. There is no other way. And if they see that for so-called various considerations, especially for want of good personnel or, I do not know, for other reasons, the leadership is showing forgiveness or is not set to inflict severe punishments, then things will always be unsatisfactory.

Clear steps need to be taken to win the trust of the people to whom the police is supposed to serve. You need to make clear that the Police will be more vigilant, much more conscientious; more prepared and disciplined.

We can and we must do it. Each member of society should consider the policeman as a protector and expect his support in difficult situations.

Rest assured that the State is always ready to support the Police, back any initiatives aimed at increasing your service efficiency. Also be sure that we will periodically address important social issues.

Maybe today or on another occasion, the Chief of Police will tell you what kind of welfare problems we will be addressing from January 1, 2018.

I think we will have another opportunity to assess your performance. I hope that at that time we will be able to speak and record significant achievements.

I wish you all a good and safe service, and I also wish each of you to realize your share of responsibility and the importance of your work. Please remember that you are doing a great job.

Thank you. 

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