Study finds fall in unlawful police violence

The results have been released of a study carried out in 2003 and 2009 in the Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava and Kharkiv regions, as well as in the Crimea. 3 thousand members of the public were questioned, as well as 600 police officers and 200 prisoners. The results were supplemented by 45 interviews with victims of violence, specialists and police officers, 16 focus groups with specialists and police officers.

A comparative analysis of the results shows that in the period from 2003 there was a fall of about 400 thousand in the number of people experiencing blows and bodily injuries during detention. However the figure of those who allege being beaten during detention is still around 600 thousand a year.

Asked what kinds of unlawful physical coercion had been applied, 2.7% of respondents in 2003 named beatings and bodily injuries against 1.6 % in 2009.

The results indicated an increasing shift from cases of unlawful violence during detention to the criminal investigation process. Violence is becoming more and more latent in society where the work of the police is constantly in the public eye and discussed. Now police officers prefer to be more circumspect when applying physical force – in places closed to the public, using force that does not lead marks, psychological violence.  The focus is on making it harder to prove the violence.

In 2009 1.3% said that they had experienced beatings and bodily injuries during criminal investigations during the previous year, against 0.94% in 2003.  In 2009 0.3% spoke of torture and ill-treatment, against 0.25 in 2003.

An important indicator of how society sees the issue of torture and ill-treatment in the police force is the general perception of who is likely to be at risk.

According to the results, 63.1% consider that nobody is guaranteed immunity from violence and torture by the police.  Among prisoners, 63.9% held the same opinion.

28% of those surveyed in one way or another accept the possibility or need to use beatings, torture or ill-treatment against suspects in order to uncover and investigate a crime.

Since 2003 the number of people who justify unlawful police force has fallen by 20% (from 48% to 28%).

74.6% of those who alleged unlawful police violence against them did not intend to approach anyone over this. 20% of the respondents did not intend to turn to anyone if they themselves or their family were subjected to torture and ill-treatment.  Of the others, 23.7% said they would approach a human rights organization, 12.7% – the media; 24% – a lawyer; 23.7% – the police; 38.8% – the Prosecutor’s Office.

Such lack of belief in the possibility of upholding ones rights through legal means and fear that the situation could get even worse lead to a sense of impunity among those who commit such offences.


There were conflicting ideas among the public as a whole, and police officers, as to the reasons for unlawful violence.

According to the public as a whole, the first three causes are:

  • the lack of punishment of those police officers who use such methods (53%)
  • bad choice of candidates for working in the police, people with sadistic tendencies (43%)
  • low professional and cultural level of police officers (38%)

The police officers, on the other hand, named:

  • 1.the failings of legislation (52%)
  • the rights of police officers are themselves violated (50%)
  • a system where indicators and reporting forces officers to “beat out” confessions (43%),

Temporary holding facilities [ITT]

55.3% of the police officers surveyed noted an improvement in conditions over the last five years. This figure was even greater (57.7%) among prisoners, where 17.7% spoke of significant improvements. This had passed by the overwhelming majority of the public (71.7%) who knew nothing of the conditions in ITT nor efforts to improve them.

Among the most important problems still needing to be resolved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, both police officers and prisoners highlighted ventilation of cells, stuffiness, the quality of food and the possibility to take a shower.

The study was under the auspices of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the European Commission, the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research

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