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IT'S NOT AS BAD AS IT SEEMS

Training Results in Ekaterinburg




    The Center for Interethnic Cooperation lead a training in Ekaterinburg together with the British organization European Dialogue and the Ekaterinburg Roma organization Roma Ural. The training took place from December 4th to December 6th on the project frame National Minorities and Access to Justice. Employees from the Ekaterinburg police and directors of the local national associations took part in the training. It is necessary to note the special contribution made by the senior management staff of the Russian MIA (Ministry of Internal Affairs) to organize the training. A representative from the senior management, Ivan Shushkevich not only helped to invite employees from the Ekaterinburg police force, but he himself was the most active participant. In the first two days the training was conducted in two separate rooms; one for the police and for the national association directors. Ivan Shushkevich, Ashot Airapetyan (director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation), former policemen from London Tony Cross and Chris Taylor, and representatives from the London-area Greenwich Council on Racial Equality Makham Badzhvar and Ulyam Ekinu worked with the policemen.

    From the very beginning the British specialists emphasized that their goal was not to teach but only to speak about the experiences of the London police and their interactions with national minorities. The British police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Great Britain searched for many years to find optimal variations of such cooperation. The British specialists noted that in learning about this experience, their Russian colleagues could avoid many mistakes, which were made by the London police forces. The training organizers decided that employees from the highest and middle sections of the police should participate at the training, however, the training took place directly before the State Duma elections, and only the policemen, who work directly on the streets and squares of Ekaterinburg, came. They arrived in uniform; several of them even brought their basic weapons. Two representatives from the Ekaterinburg Legal Institute, who are responsible for training employees of the police force, also participated at the training.

    The first and most important result was that all of the police officers were not Russian, and out of the Russians, not all were born in Ekaterinburg or even in Russia. This part of the police force is confronted with the same difficulties, which immigrants in Russian also face. The police officers were interested in everything- what kind of salary is received in England, to whom does the British police directly submit, to what extent does the Ministry of Internal Affairs supervise the activity of the police, and so on. For the police officers it was interesting to find out that the salary of police officers in England is almost ten times higher than of those in Russia, but in London living expenses are high; the British police force has the trust of the populations majority, the police profession is considered to be prestigious, the police of Great Britain do not carry weapons, the majority of crimes in Great Britain are investigated due to the help of the population, and the British police specially trains police officers from racial and national minority groups in order to most effectively work with these groups

    Tony was given the question,

    "Have you done an analysis of what ethnic group commits the most crimes?"

    "We do not have those kinds of statistics," answered the Englishman diplomatically.

    "In England, differing from us, nationality and criminally are not connected, intervened Ashot Airapetyan. In Great Britain there is a special police division for work with ethnic minorities, and in Russia we have a special division for struggle with ethnic minority groups. In Great Britain it is impossible to declare in the mass media that in our city basically all Tajiks and Gypsies sell narcotics, and yet we have this as a daily phenomenon. The fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Great Britain is called the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Tolerance already shows how strongly the approaches to national minorities in Great Britain and in Russia differ.

    Ivan Shushkevich stressed in his speech that although he highly appreciates the experience of his British colleagues, he is sure that mechanically copying the British experience in Russia could bring opposite results. He emphasized that the level of criminality depends not only on the work of the police officers but also on the social-economic situation in the country. He reported that thanks to the new leadership of the Russian MIA the police force has begun to receive budget means regularly. He said that the transfer of immigration services to the MIA has forced the ministry to urgently create new structures, search for staff, equipment, etc at the countrys headquarters, and this is very difficult work.

    It should be noted that Ivan Shushkevich is the director of the International Department of the Senior Management and knows well how the police work in Great Britain, France, Germany, the USA and so forth. His examples and comparisons of police systems from different countries was interesting not only for the employees of the Ekaterinburg police force, but also for the specialists from Great Britain.

    On this same day at 2:00 pm on the Center for Interethnic Cooperations initiative, a press conference was held, devoted to the training goals and tasks, in the office of Tatyana Merzlyakovaya, Representative of Human Rights. In addition to Tatyana Merzlyakovaya, Ashot Airapetyan, the director of Roma-Ural Aleksandr Torokhov and an expert from Great Britain Robin Oakley took part in the press conference. Gathering not the most numerous number of journalists (the rest were busy with the elections), the press conference participants spoke about the possibility of cooperation between the police and the national associations in the Sverdlovsk Region and in all of Russia. Tatyana Merzlyakovaya noted the importance of work, directed towards the improvement of interethnic conditions in the region, and condemned the tendency to use nationalistic slogans in several of the deputies electoral campaigns. The press conference participants emphasized that the project starts in Ekaterinburg, as the Urals have always been a place glorified by good relations between its people, irrespective of their nationality or creed. On the second day of training the representatives from the Greenwich Council on Racial Equality took part, in addition to the British police. Makham, an immigrant from India, and now the director of an British non-governmental organization, discussed how his organization works with the police in his region, how they have achieved a reduction of criminality on racial grounds, about the financial sources, and rights and duties of his organization. He recounted to the police officers that in Great Britain a law on racial equality exists, and the infringement of this law can result in serious consequences. He said that in Great Britain a Commission on Racial Equality works, which is financed by the countrys government but does not submit to it. Specialists come to this Commission, representing the different peoples and national minorities of Great Britain. The Commission has a lot of authority and good financial possibilities. In part, it finances a number of projects conducted by the Greenwich Council of Racial Equality. Makham wrote on the board the number of crimes from last year, committed on racial grounds in the Greenwich region. It was discovered that out of about 300 incidents, only 12 of them took place between national minorities and the police. The remaining incidents took place between representatives of different racial groups! According to Tonys words, percentage wise white people commit more crimes than any other group. Here Ashot Airapetyan interjected and declared that these figures show an improvement of interethnic conditions in Russia is possible with the desire to do so and proper work. He explained the application as follows: The Center for Interethnic Cooperations work in 11 Russian regions has shown that the majority of national community representatives complain about the local police. Complaints about other groups of the population occur very rarely. This means that the Russian majority [in Russia] has rather tolerant attitudes towards other peoples and ethnos. On the other hand, infringements of rights on the part of the police can be quickly and effectively stopped, by raising the material maintenance and educational level of police officers, who work directly with the local population.

    It needs to be said that the police officers more actively conducted themselves on the second day of training. At the end of that day, it was already clear that it was not only possible to work with these men but always to obtain positive results from this work. At the request of Ashot and Tony, the police employees divided up into four groups and took 20 minutes to prepare suggestions about how they are able to cooperate with national associations of Ekaterinburg. Later one person from every group represented the working results. The stereotype was rejected that our police are not able and do not like to write. Moving ahead it is possible to ascertain an amazing fact the police officers dealt with this task much more successfully than the national association leaders, working parallel in another hall. The police officers had more ideas, and these ideas were more concrete, which means they had more realistic use in life. This was a tremendous result, as it was more logical to believe that the national association leaders (which are more senior in age) show know better what they want from the police, as they represented the interests of the suffering side. The training showed that the police officers were more disciplined than the national association directors and were less emotional.

    At the end of the day, Aleksandr Torokhov gave a salutatory speech to the police officers.

    As was expected, the third day became the most interesting. The police officers arrived in normal street clothes. On that day they were supposed to take part in the training together with the national association leaders. The British specialists were absent, and not only because the colonel Shushkevich created a cultural program for them (they visited the Ekaterinburg Legal Institute, sites of the city, etc.). With these steps the project organizers and foreign experts wanted to demonstrate that a solution could be made about future cooperation between the Ekaterinburg police officers and the national communities without the foreigners help.

    Ashot Airapetyan and Victoria Shukhat, trainer for the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, lead the training. At the beginning they asked the representatives of the national associations to choose one of the police officers. The next assignment was for the pairs to become acquainted with each other in five minutes, and then to present his partner to everyone else. When more than forty different people attentively listen for a half hour about each other, this is already a good result. Then came the culminating moment of the training. For those two days, the trainers Tatyana Tagieva from Ekaterinburg and Victoria Shukhat prepared the national association leaders for their meeting with the police officers. On the second day of training, Victoria requested that the national association leaders create an image of the police officers and representatives of national minorities. This was not a simple task. At the beginning Victoria wrote down all existing opinions on this question, and with the help of a vote, the most typical characteristics of the policeman and representative of a national minority were chosen. Of course, these images were rather subjective and reflected the points of view of this group, who had a certain claim with the police. For this reason we have decided not to publish them.

    Victoria loudly announced these verbal portraits and asked the policemen to rank them on a five-mark scale. Anda miracle came to pass! The police officers did not get up and leave, they did not become restless or speak rudely. When we summed up all of the estimates and divided by the number of participants, the average estimate of the policemens portrait was close to three! And this means that the policemans portrait, drawn by the national community leaders with gloomy tones, was not dismissed by the police officers. The vote on the portrait of the representative of the national minority had the same result. Curiously, that before the vote, several of the national association directors tried to soften the policemans portrait, but Ashot insisted that the formulation stay the same as before. On the second day of training, a no less interesting task awaited. At Victorias request, the national association leaders wrote down about ten points, which in their view would unite the employees of police and national minorities. Victoria announced these points, and later these points were voted on. Only the police officers voted. Victoria read the existing points, and if more than three police officers were against, the points were crossed out. The results were better than the highest expectations. Seventy percent of the points, written by the national association leaders, were approved by the police officers! With the help of these simple texts, Ashot and Victoria were convinced that no antagonism exists between these two groups of the population! Prejudices, stereotypes, and a complete absence of direct, normal, and civilized dialogue, however, do exist. Later came the question of engineering. It became clear that we could calmly lead interactive games, where the police represented one team, and the national association leaders the other, and this would not cause any stress between them. It turned out that both policemen and the national association leaders took part in the interactive games with pleasure, which were ridiculous and fun. Gradually the training came to its most important goal. Ashot and Victoria divided the participants into five mixed groups and asked them to develop a design idea for one concrete activity, using the ideas of cooperation determined on the previous day. At that exact moment the British specialists returned from their excursion. It was very pleasing for them to see how the police and national association leaders worked together in a group. It was no less interesting to listen to the results of the general session. It was already 5:00pm when the leader from the Ekaterinburg Armenian religious organization, Mikhail Mnoyan arrived. He looked at those sitting in the room and asked Ashot,

    Did the police not come.

    At that moment it was really hard to tell who was a police officer and who was a representative of a national minority in the room..

    If in the six years of its existence, the Center for Interethnic Cooperation did nothing, that day would have been enough to justify its creation. It would have been impossible to achieve such great results without the hard work of our partners European Dialogue and Roma Ural. Of course, this training did not remove all questions between the police and the national communities of Ekaterinburg, but it showed that if similar trainings are conducted for the majority of the policemen in the city, it is quite possible to improve the relations between the police and the national minorities. If to take into account that the employees of the Ekaterinburg Legal Institute promised to use our training results for the training of police officers, it is possible to safely say that cooperation between the police and national communities has real prospects. It is absolutely necessary to not simply stop with these achievements and move forward. The Center for Interethnic Cooperation with its partners European Dialogue and Roma Ural will continue this work. We hope that new successes are waiting on this path.

Ashot Airapetyan