I am a twenty-year old American, whose father served twenty six years as a police officer. Every day my father would come home with the weight of a dying city on his shoulders. He didn’t like to show how this physical and mental drain affected him, but he couldn’t hide it. It seemed at times that the whole city, even the highest ranking officers and city officials, had turned their backs on the average patrolman. My dad has a shirt which line officers in his department had made, after being inspired during a trip to the Cleveland Police Department, that I always thought was cool. It only has two lines of script separated by a thin blue line, but those three little things inspire a deeper, wider range of emotions than any political or inspirational speech could ever do. The shirt is laid out like this; “Sometimes there is Justice. Sometimes there is Just Us.” I never fully understood the play on words until I was older, but now that I understand, it’s all the more heartbreaking.
Currently I’m abroad in Sofia, Bulgaria interning with an NGO as a way to earn college credit for one of my degrees. Through one of my coworkers I learned of an NGO, the Society and Safety Foundation (SSF), in Sofia that worked on behalf of the police and other emergency services. My father being who he is, I was immediately interested in learning more about the organization. So, I set up an interview with Radostina Yakimova, the director of the SSF. The SSF is the only organization of its kind in Bulgaria. They can truly say “there is Just Us.”
This organization was created in 2014 by members of the Bulgarian Trade Union of the Employees in the Ministry of Interior (TUFEMI). While the SSF stemmed from the Trade Union and the two organizations might share some common goals and work in tandem at times, the SSF and Trade Union are two completely autonomous organizations. The SSF has decided to take on the daunting task of trying to help initiate reforms in the police department, and create better rapport with the public. The general public has the idea that every officer is lazy, fat, incompetent, and corrupt. While this holds true for some, there is a new generation of officers who are trying to fight this stigma. This is where the foundation comes into play.
The SSF has launched The Person Behind the Uniform campaign in an attempt to humanize, and create a more transparent police force. This gives the majority of officers the chance to show that they aren’t dirty cops, who are willing to make a quick buck by turning a blind eye. Additionally, the SSF has started the process of trying to implement a program in Bulgarian schools that would combine the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, which originated in America and is in 44 other nations worldwide, and the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training program. The goals of this program would be to educate school children on the dangers of drugs, how to interact with emergency services, and what to do in times of emergency. These classes would be taught by police officers from the respective cities across Bulgaria, strengthening the relationship between the police and the public.
Unlike some NGOs, the SSF has chosen not to lobby the government as a way to reform the police. The current opinion of the SSF is that the political climate in regards to the police is laughable at best. This ideology adds to the justification that some officers have for accepting bribes. Because of this mentality, the foundation believes that once the police have the support of the people then, and only then, will there be the chance to eradicate the corruption that plagues the country. However, until that time arrives, the SSF will continue to forge strong and healthy relations between Bulgarians and their police.
It is clear from talking with people in Sofia that they believe the police to be a type of public bodyguard for politicians. Talking with representatives of the Sofia police, it is obvious that the majority of patrol officers want an end to the corruption. So, the million dollar question is how to end corruption while showing the public that the police force truly are there to „serve and protect.” My recommendations would be to continue with the public outreach and education programs that the SSF are implementing. This will create the environment of transparency and honesty that the profession needs. The outreach programs are always a good idea, as there can never be enough cooperation between the public and police. Nevertheless, an effort to work with the government needs to be made. These two tasks need to move in tandem as they can help each other. If one fails, then it will exponentially increase the difficulty of an already daunting proposition.
It is here that the SSF runs into its greatest downside; a lack of means. At this moment Ms. Yakimova is the only full time employee of the SSF. There are the occasional volunteers or interns, but on the whole it is only her. As much as she would like to change the facts, Ms. Yakimova only has 24 hours in a day and can only be in one place at a time. In addition to this, the SSF lacks any substantial funding. According to SSF’s annual financial report, the foundation has a budget of 36,000 Bulgarian lev (about €18,406.44 or $20,935.08). According the Virginia Society of Certified Accountants, the average budget for a small NGO in the U.S is $37,500 (about 64,485.07 lev or €32,970.57). Some of the budget goes towards Ms. Yakimova’s salary while the remaining amount of the budget is then spent on administrative costs, literature, and the organization of events.
Due to these shortcomings, the Society and Safety Foundation has little to show, regarding reforms, in its fight against corruption. However, the SSF was awarded the BAPRA Bright Award for Communication Campaign in the Public Sector due to the fact that their multi-media campaign reached over 1 million people worldwide and all of their materials are available here. The SSF hasn’t slowed its advocacy campaign either. Recently the foundation implemented a program in 2017 was called The Cost of Security. This campaign took place from January 23rd to March 31st. The goal of this program was to have eight basic questions about the Ministry of Interior: (1) Why do reforms in the MoI fail?, (2) What does reform in the Ministry of Interior mean?, (3) The Ministry of Interior: The Perfect Bureaucracy, (4) The Security Cost: how much workers’ pay to be on duty?, (5) The inverted pyramid, (6) The professional training and equipment provided, (7) Do the citizens have place in policy – making in MoI?, (8) Strategic solutions: How the reform in the MoI should look like? The results of this program can be found at this web address.
With the right type of support and funding, I believe that the Society and Safety Foundation can usher in a new era of policing in Bulgaria. One that is free from corruption, apathy, and incompetence.
Author: John Carter, student in Capital University, USA, Intern of NGO
Source: NGO Portal, 08 August 2017
When we are calling on 112?
When the situation requires URGENT intervention of the emergency services (fire brigade, police, emergency, civil protection) and a team have to be sent at the accident.
How to report a sygnal on phone 112?
1. As soon as you have contact with the operator on 112 you have to specify the village, city or town you are calling from. If you are not in village, city or town, you have to describe its geographical location by landmarks – roud, river, mountain etc.
2. Formulate briefly the reason for your call – whether it concerns medical incident or another – flood, fire, etc.
3. Listen carefully the questions of the operator and succinctly respond to them. If necessary, wait to be connected with the service – ambulance, police, fire and more. It is important to be known that this communication with an operator lasts between 1 to 3 min. During the conversation the most accurate information have to be provided about wthe intsident.
I have two children who were 4 and 7 years old when I applied for a job in the 112 Emergency line in Bulgaria. While I was passing all phases of the recruitment I worried and was sure I will not be approved for this position. I thought that my children are too small and it will be the cause for my rejection. I was not sure whether I am suitable for the job. I did not know if I’m good enough. I was worried because I did not know the system and what is the responsibility to work as an operator in 112 Emergency line. I was afraid because I knew that lives depend on the seconds in which you are judging and evaluating the severity of the situation. The lives of someone’s mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children depend on how quickly you are processing the signal. The lives who are depending on your judgment and professionalism. Today, nine years later, I am thankful to my husband, who saw the ad and gave me the courage by telling me that I will handle it. Today, I am thankful to my work as operator in 112 Emergency line, because I realized that life is much more valuable than I thought, and I contribute each day so many lives to be saved.
The most important element of the whole process is institutionalized of forms and procedures for citizen participation in reforming the Ministry of Interior. The second crucial component is uniting around the need to prepare a long-term strategy to reform the Ministry of Interior, to be adopted as the Ministry of Interior and civil society organizations and the trade unions.
One of the biggest challenges is how to institutionalize citizen participation, without making structure cumbersome and inefficient. It is therefore necessary to set up an informal group of representatives of NGOs and professional organizations to clarify the parameters of functioning mechanisms for involving citizens and procedures for consultation with government representatives. In this period of advance planning is necessary activities and measures on the one hand to be provided to explore the expectations of citizens for the “security” and to hold public consultations and to what extent the Ministry of Interior can be reformed so that to meet public expectations. It is in the process of preparation and to provide mechanisms through which citizens can participate actively in the process of monitoring the activities of the Ministry of Interior and in making recommendations for improvement. In addition the components of active and broad citizen participation are necessary to provide institutionalized form of citizenship and have the necessary expertise. Therefore, it is necessary to attract two types of organizations: organizations with expertise on the topic “security”, MoI, civic participation and preparation of program documents, as well as organizations that have access to a wide range of citizens. This format will provide on the one hand the necessary expertise will enable the realization of activities on informing and consulting the public and will fill with meaning and content activities institutionalized form of citizenship.
One of the issues that should be discussed is whether such an institutionalized structure is better to be the Council of Ministers or the Ministry of Interior.
The reasons for this to be to the Ministry of Interior are related to the specifics of the activity of this structure, which requires consultation and debate on specific issues relating efficiency of the institution and the quality of provided service “security”. The functioning of institutionalized form of civic participation to the Interior Ministry will provide direct access and opportunity to work with experts of various departments in the Ministry, which will make the process more operational and flexible.
The arguments in favor of the institutionalization of such a structure to the Council of Ministers /CM/ are more – on the one hand, they are related to the need for reform vision and long-term development strategy of the Ministry of Interior be approved and confirmed by representatives of various ministries and agencies whose activities and policies will be directly or indirectly affected by the implementation of the reform in the Ministry. On the other hand, the constitution of this body to the Council of Ministers will ensure its independence from the Ministry of Interior. Representatives of other departments with rank minister or deputy minister, will facilitate the process of adopting the proposals at the level of CM and ensure the adoption of most of the recommendations of this authority. In the long term, the creation of such a structure to CM will allow expanding the scope of activity, interpretation of the “security” in much broader and synchronize visions for development and reform of the judiciary and defense.
Before proceeding with the preparation of long-term strategy the civic and professional organizations, and the representatives of legislative and executive power need to unite around a common vision for the Interior Ministry in the long run. The preparation of a common vision is associated with both study of the attitudes of the public and lobbying and consultations with government officials. The main issues that need to be discussed and be reached a consensual decision, before starting preparation of the strategy are:
To increase citizens’ awareness that the quality of security service depends on their actions and attitudes.
To create effective institutionalized model that ensures the participation of citizens in the reform of the Ministry of Interior and the institutions that provide the security service.
To change attitudes of citizens towards the Ministry of Interior officials and create a partnership based on a mutual trust.
To create social infrastructure at local, regional and national level, allowing communication and partnership between citizens, MoI officers and representatives of stakeholders for the preparation and monitoring of local strategies for security service.
To establish a successful model by which employees who have left the system in the Ministry of Interior to transmit and share their knowledge and skills.
Society and Safety Foundation seeks to change the meaning and content of the concept of “security” and to raise the awareness of security as a basic need, which if not satisfied prevents personal development. Through our activities we want to encourage the citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria to participate actively in the process of reforming the Ministry of Interior and the definition of the security service and to identify institutions which are its suppliers.
The security is not only a basic human need, but also one of the deepest aspirations enshrined in us. Ambition and desire for safety when we are at work, in public or when we are at home. Security can be viewed a much broader: striving for financial security, security in terms of our life and health, the health of our relatives, our work, our social position.
THE “CIVIL SECURITY” SERVICE
At present, there is no clear definition of the scope of the “Security”, the formation of the main components and mechanism of interaction between the institutions which are responsible for the quality of this service. Common understanding of ‘security’ to prevent external aggression and maintain public order in the country, thus ensuring its usually identified with some of the functions of the state. In other words, the creation and maintenance of security can be defined as a common public good, service that is used by all and for it is characteristic absence of competition in consumption, which is why its implementation is financed with part of the taxes of the population (budget of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence). Moreover, her negatives of all the non-market sector – inability to accurately measure received and paid, the absence of competition, hence comparability and choice, and presumably low efficiency. Meanwhile, the “National Security Strategy” of the Republic of Bulgaria refers to “adapt to the changing security environment” which “imposes new prioritization of security policy, the inclusion of overall institutional potential of society, applying new forms of interaction between the state, business and NGOs, such as public-private partnership. ”
“Extending of the social scope of the security policy poses new challenges for institutional coordination horizontal and vertical hierarchical relations management. Planned pooling of resources of the security sector and change the definition of the “security” requires taking concrete action not only by individual institutions and structures of civil society, but also of every citizen, which is one of the largest chalenges- citizens to realize that the quality of the “security” is defined by their action or inaction.
To be the “security” adequate to the needs and expectations of citizens is first necessary to identify their expectations and understanding of what constitutes the “security” – something which, although developed strategies and other program documents in this field is not made. Lack of clarity about the expectations of citizens, creating the basic prerequisite for overall dissatisfaction with the “security” as:
Security as defined in the National Security Strategy is a broad and public order and security are only one of it’s components.
The main priorities of the National Security Strategy and defined as vital interests are: • ensuring the rights, freedoms, security and welfare of the citizens, society and the state;
So formulated priorities cover all socio-economic sectors and require coordinated and common efforts of all countries to promote the “security”, quality and possibilities for its optimization and implementation of subsequent monitoring and control by its users.
It is essential that the institutions and their structural units, the civil society and citizens to begin to act as integrated components of the national security system. To begin this process is necessary before this dialogue to take place and create a partnership between civil society organizations, the private sector, state and local institutions what suggests the “security” and how it can improve its quality.