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
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.
In 2015, 4,686,390 emergency calls are accepted and only 1,987,576 are real.
Who is responsible for the unreal signals received?
Who educates the citizens?
Who and how impose sanctions for the unreal signals?
Who measures the potential risk to the citizens? The debate on the reform of the Ministry of Interior includes the National System 112 and it’s time to talk about the responsibility that families and all institutions have for the unreal signals.
“I was born in a village which lies on the Border. I grew up seeing every day the Border fence and people on the other side. My grandfather told me stories about the Borders. He told me everything about my country, culture, values. He told me a long time ago we were one nation and lived together. He showed me maps and put me to sleep with tales about the Border. I did not understand it, but I knew he was right. I did not fully understand why I had not to went to the other side, but I respected his instruction. Few years later my grandfather became ill and shortly before he died he said “The border is not to get you away from others, but to put you closer to your own people. By keeping the border, you are keeping your family, community, country. Keep your borders and respect the foreign ones.” This was not only the time I realized what the Border is, but the moment I chose to keep it. That was the moment I decided to become a border policeman.
Today and each single day I go to work, knowing what “Neither step back, behind us is Bulgaria” exactly means.
“I am a mother and my daughter is very proud that I’m a police woman. She knows that I look out not only for her safety and security, but also for her friends in kindergarten. What she doesn’t known is that I am dreaming for the day when the system will be changed and it will not be so bureaucratic. She doesn’t know I am dreaming of the day when not only my family but all citizens will be proud of their police. I believe that day will come. ”
Terrorism threatens a society by instilling fear and helplessness in its citizens. It seeks to hold a society or government hostage by fear of destruction and harm.
When terrorist acts occur, people generally look for ways to cope with the acute stress and trauma. Terrorism evokes a fundamental fear of helplessness. The violent actions are random, unprovoked and intentional, and often are targeted at defenseless citizens. Trying to cope with the irrational information that is beyond normal comprehension can set off a chain of psychological events culminating in feelings of fear, helplessness, vulnerability and grief.
Xenophobia — fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners — can be heightened under a terrorist threat and can become a social and psychological danger. The fear generated by terrorism can be exacerbated by a population’s diversity if there is distrust between groups, categories and classification of citizens. It is important to recognize that diversity in a population can be an opportunity for unity and strength. There are members of our diverse society who have experienced past terrorist incidents. The knowledge and experience they have gained from surviving and coping with these incidents can make them a valuable resource on how to cope and how to offer assistance to others.
After a terrorist attack, many people are impacted. People who have experienced the trauma often fall into the following categories:
People who have experienced or witnessed a terrorist attack may go into a state of acute stress reaction. You may feel one or all of these symptoms:
If you are having trouble coping with the terrorist attacks, consider seeking help from a psychologist or other mental health professional. There are many ways to feel traumatized by terrorist incidents. Psychologists and other licensed mental health professionals are trained to help people cope and take positive steps toward managing their feelings and behaviors.
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?
Recent years, when we hear Ministry of Interior the associations which come to our minds are “ineffective” and “reform.”We are all aware and conscious of the fact that more and more often, when we witness or become a victim of petty crime we prefer to cover the harm ourselves rather than complicate our lives and alert, to write explanations, to do 5-6 times to the local district and finally, after all these efforts, to understand that we are part of “unsolved crimes”.
At the same time we are also aware that this is an institution that is funded, like all state structures of our taxes, but we as citizens have no control over the policies of this institution. Every year we hear statistics and repors about the increased levels of solved crimes – yes, by 2-3% per year, but it is still growth. At the same time, our life does not change. We do not feel safer or more comfortable for ourselves and our relatives. Our trust in the Ministry of Interior has not increased. We do not believe that if we are robbed, the perpetrator/s will be caught.
We feel that we are caught in a vicious circle from which the exit is impossible, but the Ministry of Interior and the “civil security” service is becoming more expensive and increasingly ineffective.
Using a simple mathematical approach we find that the population in Bulgaria reduced, but the costs of MoI increased in absolute terms and against the backdrop of the missing police in Bulgarian villages. This for Society and Safety Foundation means inefficiency and uncertainty.
Many researchers, representatives of political parties, local government or business will say that this is not so and that theMinistry of Interior is a working institution. And they are right … somewhat.
MoI works despite all political assignments. Despite the lack of vision and strategy for reform. Despite the poor working conditions, shattered patrol cars and missing consumables.
MoI works, because of the people who have remained in this institution. People who love their profession. People who want to be proud of what they work. People who want to serve to the citizens. People who want reform, but a real, long-term and reform which is meeting the needs of bulgarian citizens.
These people need support, because security is our common and shared responsibility and because to be safe and secure about himself and his family, we all must request the Ministry of Interiorto to be reformed in way which we as sovereigns believe it is correct.
It is time to start talking about quality and how to measure the quality in Ministry of Interior.
Much of MoI’s employees are ready. Are you?
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:
The main issue which united representatives of trade unions, professional organizations and NGOs in terms of public order and security, is that the “security” service provided to citizens, is not effective and does not meet their needs. The discussion about the parameters and expectations of what should the service be has not taken place – as citizens, and with trade unions and professional organizations. Reasons for the lack of discussion about MoI are many but the main ones are:
That is why the police system becomes more rigid, more encapsulated and sacrifice more cruel its employees. This is happening on a background of permanent reduction of the quality of “security” service and increased number of unsatisfied from the MoI’s work citizens to whom is said they are complaining are reasonless and exist only because they do not understand “the complex matter of security.”
Rigidity of the system is due to many reasons, some of which 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.