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.
His name is Stoyan and he lives in Konstantinovo.
The flood on 16 May 2016 found him with a shopping bag and on the way back home.
He saw that it’s raining, but has not suspected that water can flood the village, and he had never heard anything about flooding.
He understood that something is happening, because of people’s cries. He turned and saw people who are pointing point down to the ravine where there are many houses. He ran and while he was approaching the turbulent water, he saw in his eyes dozens of pictures and memories passed. He remembered Asparukhovo, all dead people, weeping mothers, drowned animals, but mostly he remembered the heavy combat with the water and the moments of frustration. He prayed the water is not so dangerous. He prayed to be able to help.
Down almost to the ravine he saw the grandmother Dimka. She did not shout for help. She was standing on a small island, watched people who gathered on the other side of the water and quietly sobbing. Huddled and bent double, she watched how the water was absorbing everything.
He knew it was a matter of minutes before the water to drag also her.
In this moment, Stoyan tied around his waist one of the ropes that men right next to him were holding and walked through the water. He dragged, but he knew and had experience in dealing with the water. He looked ahead, walked bravely and looked grandmother’s Dimka in her eyes. He was not counting steps and not thinking about the risks, but hurry because he knew that the water swells within seconds and the life of the woman depended on how quickly he will reach her. When he went to the island and caught it, she closed her eyes, said nothing and gripped his hand with indescribable force. She dropped it when she was in a safe place – away from the water.
Today Dimka is cleaning her house while Stoyan is at work. Stoyan is a firefighter, but on 16 May 2016 he had day off. He knows that he is a firefighter and you must carry it in your heart and your blood. He knows that being a firefighter is a calling and to save people’s life is a duty… a duty witout working time!
Each day is different. There are days I’d been shouted. Days when people fainted in my arms. Days when my stripes had been torn and people spat in my face. Days, I’ve heard and seen how the life vanished.
Days like these are not uncommon, but are quickly forgotten, because are followed by the other days. Days like today, when the people robbed grandfather Dancho have been revealed. Days which we cannot forget, because the tearful elderly man brought us, as his gratitude, a basket with apples and told us “Thank you, guys. Thank you, you’ve been here…”.
There are also the other days and they are the worst – days that you know you cannot help and you are powerless. Days when you wished you could prevent a crime or incident. Days that you want the institution you work in is not so unwieldy. Days when you are praying on behalf of the victims’ relatives to survive and justice to prevail. Days in which your are furious and angry. Days you are asking yourself whether it makes sense and do you have the strength to keep doing your job.
In those days, three things are keeping you to move forward: the love you have to the profession, the colleagues and people like grandfather Dancho.
With gratitude to my colleagues and grandfather Dancho
One official at the Ministry of Interior
In 2015, 3168 people have left the Ministry of Interior.
More than 2/3 of them are working at field and are at operational positions.
From all employees quit the system 1 is a senior, 466 are managers, 688 of are at executive and 2013 are at junior executive positions.
444 employees (65%) of the 688 people on executive positions and 1345 junior executive position (67%) of total 2013 have ceased their legal relations with the Ministry of Interior in the period October to December 2015.
The number of resigned employees sharply increased in the last quarter of 2015. It is a result of the planned “reforms” in the Law on State Budget of the Republic of Bulgaria, provoked unprecedented association of the employees in the Security Sector and spontaneous protests in Bulgaria
At present part of the vacancies are advertised competitions, but due to the long process of selection and training, the deficit created in the Ministry of Interior will not be brought soon under control.
Much of the staff left the system is not only employees working in the field, but also experts who have years of experience. They are not able to pass on their experience. Their work is done by their colleagues who are repeatedly loaded and as a result – ineffective.
Currently it a new amending in the Law on the Interior Ministry is planning, but measures addressing this crisis, tools for improving of the quality of service “civil security” and convert the Interior into an effective institution are not discussed – on the contrary. The new Law is providing reduction of the social rights of the employees, an internal restructuring, creating a state-owned enterprise and the transformation of Fire Safety and Protection of Citizens in Agency, but no one answers the questions how this will enhance the quality of work in the Ministry of Interior and will make citizens more safety and secure?
We all, as citizens and taxpayers, must not only be interested in what happens in the Ministry of Interior, but also actively to participate in the process of its reforming.
We need to ask will these reforms make us feel safer?
In the first part of the series “The person behind the uniform” we are introducing you Ivo – a firefighter in Varna, beloved husband and father. The series will meet you with law enforcement officers across the country.
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:
Ministry of Interior is the only unreformed Ministry in Bulgaria, but also one of the ministries in which structural changes are the most numerous. One of the major structural changes that contribute the MoI to become a mega-ministry is the closure of Ministry of Emergency Situations and merger it with the MoI /29.07.2009 /. This change is one of the main reasons the scope and functions of the police to be expanded and the number of the employees to be increased as well. The functions for civil protection as nonspecific for MoI, took a very large financial, human and time resources for establishment of a model which ensures that mechanically merged with the Ministry of Interior structures will begin to function as part of the whole Ministry. The stress of merge, which endured as officials closed the MES and MoI, the lack of clear rules of interaction, changed principles of operation and interaction between institutions is extremely large. Shortly before the “merger” of officials from the MES, the MoI- in 2007, was “released” from the National service “Security” and the “protection of the means of communication” and a State Agency “National Security” was established. As a result of structural changes to 2009., the number of MoI’s employees is nearly 68 000 people.
In the period 2009-2014 structural changes continued. In 2013, from the the structure of the Ministry of Interior were removed General Directorate “Combating Organized Crime”/CDCOC/ and Specialized and the “Operational technical operations”/SDOTO/. CDCOC became part of National agency “Security” and SDOTO became the State Agency “Technical Operations” to Council of Ministers. Alongside these structural changes, the names of regional units and departments were changed many times and the number of employees continued the trend for reduction and in 2014 employees in MoI was 49 500.
All these changes were made without the participation of citizens, without an assessment of their impact on the quality of services delivered by the Ministry of Interior, and especially without an assessment of their impact on the employees. This long-standing practice is one of the reasons MoI to become the (auto) oppressive, suspicious, dehumanized, formal and disengagement institution in which the prospect of long-term reform and involving citizens in its implementation is assessed as a threat that must be limited, not as an option which should be used.
Reforms that are realized at the time, as mentioned, are parceled and ineffective. Reforms in the Ministry of Interior needs to be long-term, have consulted with civil and professional organizations, to explain the effect of a change in the life of every citizen and employee in the Ministry of Interior, and are tailored to the needs of the citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria.
One of the most important reasons for the need for the involvement of trade unions in this process is the fact that reforming and optimizing the operation of each system is associated with a reduction in the number of employees and reduction of social rights. The main role of trade unions is the reform and streamlining of the activities of the Ministry of Interior does not happen at the expense of employees who are victims of realized until parceled and inefficient structural changes. Namely the trade unions are the ones who will make their contribution to the smooth transition and change in the way the Ministry of Interior, with regard to employees. On the other hand the trade union organizations will be those who will consult in advance the reform proposals will propose the adoption of programs for alternative employment for redundant workers and can take up a large part of the work of retraining, together with non-government organisations. Last but not least, the trade unions will have the responsibility to inform and “exhausting” incurred tension among employees.