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
If any government had been replaced it always brought ad hoc and politically motivated changes. These changes are quite often and the main reason for the occupational stress and insecurity about their jobs among police officers, firefighters, rescuers and all workers in Ministry ot Interior. It has been said that ” … the main reason for the collapse of the system is that it must be depoliticizedbut is highly politicized. When the governmental shifts starts they are looking for gaps and even holes in the MoI which aim is certain superiors to be fired, but in the center of the gunfight are the regular workers – these who are working in the field. We are police officers, firefighters and rescuere of all people, not one or another political party. The political dependance of the superior executives is the reason all principles of good governance to be changed and the image and competence of the management to be ruined. The feeling of the employees is that recent years, the management staff’s recruitement is based not on the skills and knowledge, but on cpolitical protection. “There is a sort of aristocraty in the system- has been said – people in high positions, who are perceived as untouchable”. Overall feeling is that it makes no sense to have a political governing in de-politicized structures as the army and the police, because this method of governing is only delegitimize the Ministry of Interior as an institution and police officers as workers who are serving the people.”
* Study of the factors causing stress among employees in MoI in Bulgaria
“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. ”
“Unlike many of my colleagues, no one in my family was not a policeman, but I made this choice, because of my father.
My father creates and sculpts figures and whole life is giving life to the tree. He wanted to see peculiar for his work – he wanted his son to keep, what he and those around him were created and principles that were followed by him so many years. My father wanted to see her son in uniform, because he believed to keep people is the duty of every person, and through he was going to fulfill our family debt to society.
My father wanted I to become a policeman, not only because for him it was a great honor, but because he believes that to keep and cherish the security of the homeland is a duty. In the day when I put the uniform for the first time I felt how heavy is the responsibility I took, but I felt also pride which filled my lungs.
Pride, caused by the duty that you have and the principles you follow.
Pride, which I am feeling each time when I see a person on whom I helped and the pride that I am seeing in the eyes of their relatives.
Pride, born of love for the profession, because for me to be a policeman means to live with dignity, honor and to keep helping people.
Pride, born by choice I’d make as a sign of love – from son to the father, which became the one and only right choice for me. ”
Photo: Antonio Hadjihristov
On 25 and 26 June 2016 a training on the project “Policies on Gender Equality in MoI: what to be?”, financed by the Bulgarian Fund for Women was conducted,
The training was attended by 10 officers of MoI working in different structures – Security Police, Criminal Police and National System 112.
During the training different policies and types of discrimination were presented, policies for gender equality among the officers were discussed and was confirmed they are no such policies and different types of discrimination the employees become victims were identified.
This training will be base for subsequent preparation of proposal to the Minister of Interior for change of policies in the Ministry, regarding internal discrimination and will be used for debate on the criteria for recruitment of men and women in the Ministry of Interior.
A few months ago I was out playing basketball with my children when the ball rolled into the street. I went to it, but suddenly the laugh of my children disappeared and they froze. They saw two patrol cars on the corner. The vehicles turned and were moving slowly towards our house. Then my 7 year old son turned to me and asked: “Mom, is everything with Dad, ok?”. My heart also flinched at the sight of a patrol car, but it was not as painful as watching the tears in the eyes of my son. And then I realized that my children have their own concerns about the profession of my husband. While the cars were coming slowly, I felt how time stopped. Things changed when one of the officers smiled and waved his hand to the children. Children ran up to me and shook heavily waist. I hugged and kissed them while I was ensuring them their dad is ok and we could call him, just to hear his voice.
Then I thought that while we are recognizing those who are working in law enforcement structures as heroes and are proud of them, there is a small population of characters whose voice is often not heard. These little characters are children in the communities the police.
If you ask, any child of an employee in law enforcement structures, it will tell you that mom or dad is the biggest hero. They know that in this work, bad gays are trapped and their mom or dad make the world a better place.
You’ll see these children to play policemen with their water guns. They are the ones with the good and courageous mom and dad and are proud to have them as parents, but the little heroes are worrying about them.
I found that my children are worried not only about the safety of their parents, but for all who are working in the system. They see many of them as best friends’ parent or theirs’ mom or dad best friend.
Our children face many prejudices. Several times I have seen my son came home upset by another child who as soon as understood his father is a police officer, said that all police officers are bad. Too many times I’ve been out with them when I have seen parents who treat their children with the police officers.
Unfortunately, most children are terrified of the police, but there is no child of a police officer who can understand it, because they see them as a defender not as treat. They see him/her as someone who helps. They see her/his as their mother or father.
It’s good to know our children. They are the ones who make sacrifices in Christmas mornings in which their father or mother is missing due to work. They are the ones whose birthday parties, school plays and recitals have been missed from mom or dad, because they were at work.
Make sure you thank them for their sacrifice and you will found time to listen, because you can learn a lot from them.
Your children also have duty and it is daily. They struggle with prejudice, overcome worries about you, convince people that you’re the best, support friends whose parents are also police officers and the only thing they want is to be well and to back home after works safe and secure.
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
Society and Safety Foundation is one of the few civil organizations in Bulgaria which puts as a priority on its activities the improvement of the “civil security” service provided by the Ministry of Interior, which is directly linked with the improvement of the quality of work and working conditions in the MoI’s system.
Regarding the Minister Buchvarova speaking at the press conference in the Council of Ministers on 13.01.2016 we are obliged to express our official statement.
Mrs Buchvarova, at the press conference on 13.01.2016 you said, quote:
“Therefore any further attemptс MoI to be criticized on this way – with insults, ridiculous allegations false information – typical “cop numbers” will be perceived as an attack on public and national security.”
Please explain on which point from art. 4 of the Act of the State Agency for National Security you relate the criticism to the Ministry of Interior.
You are absolutely right that “insults, ridiculous allegations, false information” can not serve as a constructive public dialogue on the subject, but only the court may classify the criticisms of the Ministry of Interior as such.
You have no legal right to do so.
In this sense, the position you express can be perceived as restricting freedom of speech, which is protected by Art. 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria. May or may not representatives of the media to criticize the Ministry of Interior? May or may not civil organizations to criticize the work of the Ministry?
In another part of your speech, you said:
“Reforms are on my computer. How can you comment on something you have not seen.”
The logical question comes, why the reforms stay on your computer and are not published for public discussion? At organised by us roundtable on 18 December 2015, we appealed for reform which takes into account the interests of citizens and ministry’s employees. We appealed for greater transparency in the management of MoI’s budget which is over 1 billion lev – all taxpayers’ money. The reform in the Ministry of Interior can be done only with broad public support and obvious action taken in the citizens’ interest. Don’t you support this position, Mrs. Buchvarova?
We would not focus superfluous attention to other parts of your statement that aren’t less questionable and are not meeting the legal framework of your position. We will notice that the Ministry of Interior cannot have “priority groups”, as it would be contrary to Art. 6 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Society and Safety Foundation does not accept the idea of unilateral decisions that affect the whole Bulgarian society. We openly oppose to any attempt for freedom of speech’s limitation and each reform the Ministry of Interior, which is not based on detailed research in the Ministry and after public debate on the issue.
And we say “Enough!”
Enough parceled reforms.
Enough savings to fill the budget for the next 12 months without long-term vision.
Enough reformes without at least elementary form of analysis within the ministry.
Foundation “Society and Security” calls for transparency and would support each initiative in this direction, but any reform that does not meet the needs of citizens and employees cannot receive our support.
MoI officers and representatives of civil society participated in the process of identification of approaches came to a basic conclusion: before a vision and develop a strategy for long-term reform to be created it is necessarily a broad public discussion with representatives of NGOs, professional and trade union organizations to be conducted.
MoI 2030 – one point of view and one possible approach:
The one approach to reform of the Ministry of Interior if we are not thinking about structural change is to consider the reform as a desired effect on the staff, to identify necessary organizational change to ensure a high quality of service “security” and to ensure better and more efficient service to citizens. In this case, it is necessary to apply a tactical approach, which is based on a pre-identified problems, which need to be solved. If this approach to reform is selected, it is necessary the measures in 2030 to ensure the achievement of the following results:
To the citizens of Republic of Bulgaria:
Improved interaction between MI and institutions from other key sectors such as health facilities, social services, prosecution and court to establish a new approach and allow the application of the principle of “case management”. This approach will reduce the time limits for citizens and increase the effectiveness of the “security”.
To the employees:
To the system:
Ministry of Interior in 2030 – Another point of view and the second possible approach:
The second possible approach that was identified is strategic and it is connected with the union about the role and functions that MoI have to implement and is based on the assumption that the main function of the Ministry of Interior and the main objective of the Police department is to protect public order and internal Security. If starting from this understanding, it is necessary when talking about reform and the vision of the Ministry of Interior in 2030, to achieve the following results:
On 23 and 24 April 2016 in Bansko, a workshop was held which aim was to determine a “Society and Safety” Foundation’s priorities until December 2017.
The workshop is financed by Trade Union Federation of the Employees in the Ministry of Interior and is a part of realisation of the project “MoI’s employees and the citizens – partnership for security”.
The workshop was attended by members of the Trade Union Federation of the Employees in the Ministry of Interior Ministry, representatives of non-governmental organizations the Foundation worked successfully last year with and the academic community.
The main challenge which was identified by the participants in the workshop was the administrative and organizational strengthening and development of the Foundation.
The priority areas for development and work by the end of 2017 are related to the improving of the employees in the Ministry of Interior’s image and increasing citizens’ confidence in them, working with children and young people and developing of a strategy for improving the quality of”security” service supported not only by political parties, but also employers, non-governmental organizations, academic community and state institutions.