Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Parameters of Police Reform and Non-Reform in Post-Soviet Regimes: The Case of Armenia

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Parameters of Police Reform and Non-Reform in Post-Soviet Regimes: The Case of Armenia

Article excerpt

Introduction: Police Reform without Democracy

The complex causal relationships between policing, regime types, and regime transitions, noted more than 40 years ago by Bayley,1 are still being unpacked. Mere transition from authoritarian to democratic rule does not solve most problems of policing in the transitional society.2 Rather, only changes to specific policing institutions and practices can combat corruption and foster "democratic policing."3 As a corollary, even highly repressive authoritarian regimes can undertake police restructuring that benefits citizens, whether through improved police probity or technical enhancements.4 We examine the police reform process in one post-Soviet political system, Armenia, to gauge the scope for reform in similar "hybrid" or "electoral authoritarian" regimes in the region. While the presence or absence of democracy per se constrains possible reforms in a given polity, other parameters of each case determine more specific outcomes, including intra-elite relations, antecedent problems of crime and police malfeasance, and international linkages.

Police corruption is multifaceted. Alongside bribery and extortion of civilians, corruption can include nepotism in hiring, as well as protection rackets, which in the former Soviet Union often encompass much of the economy.5 Moreover, economically-motivated corruption constitutes only one aspect of police malfeasance, alongside procedural infractions such as falsification of evidence and abuse of suspects,6 and racial or ethnic discrimination.7 Reform during political transitions requires reform instilling respect for democratic politics and civil rights among officers8-though even in established democracies, policing is rarely fully "democratic."9 Bayley comprehensively outlines the components of democratic policing: transparency to the public, cooperation with civil society, selection and training procedures that are free of corruption and reflect democratic values, and inclusion of women (both as police officers and recipients of police services).10 Bayley's holistic approach to democratic policing structures our investigation of Armenia.

The post-Soviet region is ideal for studying varieties of both police malfeasance and electoral authoritarian police reform. Outside the Baltic countries, post-Soviet republics range from the fragile transitional democracies of Ukraine and Georgia to various shades of the authoritarian spectrum. With some exceptions in Central Asia that lean more authoritarian, most are "hybrid" or "electoral authoritarian," exhibiting deficiencies in free elections and civil liberties.11

Although many post-Soviet states have undertaken at least nominal police reform, scholarly attention has focused on two cases: Russia and Georgia. Regarding Russia, studies emphasize reforms' structural disappointments.12 In contrast, Georgia is known for its sweeping transformation of policing, albeit with major deficiencies in democratic accountability, citizen trust, and human rights.13

The Armenian police have also been examined, though there is significantly less research on this topic.14 Pearce et al. analyzed police-citizen communication.15 Kutnjak Ivković and Khechumyan initially reported Armenian police officers' high tolerance for corruption, but later found modest changes in police attitudes.16 Comparing Armenian and Georgian reforms, Sholderer critically assessed the outcome in Armenia, citing lack of improvement in its Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index or civilians' self-reported bribe-giving, a fact she explained by the absence of Georgian-style elite replacement in Armenia.17

We aim for a more comprehensive review of Armenia's police reforms, encompassing full, partial, and absent reforms, aspects of democratic policing, and corruption. Below, we first present and comment on the evolution of Armenia's post-Soviet police reforms. We then assess several key reforms, including the anti-corruption campaign in the traffic police and the Department of Visas and Registration (OVIR); modernization of police recruitment and training; policing of protest; and treatment of crime victims and witnesses, with a focus on domestic violence and rape. …

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