Police officer or cop?
According to numerous polls, less than 40% of Belarusians have complete trust in the police. Meanwhile, police officers seem to perform quite a respected function - to protect and defend. Is it a paradox?
“Today, police bosses find it difficult to change their image for the better. And there are several reasons for that,” says a former police officer, now a human rights activist Andrei Paluda. “Employees of our law enforcement agencies often perform functions that are not inherent to the profession. We are talking about political objectives. In these cases, the police do not think about ordinary people, who find themselves under pressure and later start treating their offenders respectively. Besides, speaking about attitudes to the police, we can not help but look at the history. It is the system developed in the Soviet times that still can be felt. The NKVD times were marked by pursuit of performance, when law enforcement officers forgot about human dignity and strived only to achieve the desired figures. There were frequent cases when employees just came to the place and took people, who were never seen after that.”
According to the human rights defender, during the Soviet era law enforcement agencies were perceived as a punitive authority. This attitude cannot be changed immediately. It takes time and work and, of course, positive examples.
“It has also to be understood that the police are not people who can be either good or bad. Everyone has their own set of human qualities. Some behave with dignity, and someone shows bad traits.”
The causes of negative attitudes towards the police can be also analyzed from the point of view of psychology. Andrei Paluda believes that our parents influence this question since our birth.
“What do our mothers and fathers tell their children who misbehave? If do not calm down, a policeman will come and take you to jail! This threat creates fear. Subconsciously the child has a negative attitude to the police. In addition, it gradually forms a line of conduct, which later makes itself felt. We grow up, but our subconscious fear remains. Though we did nothing wrong, but walking down the street and seeing a policeman creates some discomfort. We are starting to get nervous. And the other side perceives this respectively. Seeing this, the police officer himself begins to think, “Yeah, no wonder he’s nervous: he’s guilty!”. And a conflict starts,” says the human rights defender.
An interesting idea was raised on one of the forums where Internet users discussed their attitude towards the police in Sweden. There, according to a resident of Stockholm, police reaction is calm. “If a person has never had any personal experience with the police, there is no inner fear when meeting with them. If a person feels a suspect in advance, then we have it considered as a sign of immaturity. It is assumed that a psychologically mature person is confident in his innocence and does not panic at the sight of the police. They are our defenders.” It is a question when this state of affairs will be seen in Belarus.
“It is impossible to change the situation too soon. But we definitely need to work. First, law enforcement officers should refuse to perform political tasks. And, of course, they need to engage in parallel with the public, talking about the situations when the police showed their best side. Because, the police have a lot of people who do their job honestly. There are enough people who are willing to defend and protect,” says Andrei Paluda.