Ukraine’s National Police chief discussed details of legal and criminal issues ranging from weapons possession issues, crime rates, and the police role in wartime in an interview with national media.
In an interview with RBC-Ukraine, the head of the National Police, Ivan Vyhivsky, said that law enforcement officers have begun seizing larger quantities of weapons, including tons of explosives, millions of cartridges, and thousands of grenades and pistols.
“As for the weapons distributed at the beginning of the war, we are not taking them away from citizens now because the war is ongoing, and people feel safer with weapons,” said Vyhivsky.
According to him, a draft law has been developed to register and regulate these weapons. Citizens need to come and record the weapon. After that, the weapon will be tested, accounted for, and returned to the citizen. After the end of the war, citizens will be required to return the registered weapons within 90 days.
“If you don’t comply with the registration process, then you will be criminally responsible,” said the head of the National Police.
He added that the department was considering offering a monetary reward for surrendering the weapon, but the police do not have such resources. Another option is to allow citizens to keep the weapons but modify them to be non-functional, essentially rendering them non-firearms.
“Of course, weapons in the hands of citizens pose challenges. We sometimes seize colossal volumes. Recently, an entire arsenal was confiscated from one suspect in Mykolaiv, including a military part of a Shahed drone. People even bring such things home,” said Vyhivsky.
The police will not be handing out summonses
According to Vyhivsky, the police assist the Territorial Recruitment Centers (TRCs) in establishing the location of evaders and, by the authority and necessary documents from the TRC, deliver such persons to them.
“But handing out summonses and joint orders are an additional burden, and we don’t have the resources to put a policeman next to every TRC employee,” said the head of the National Police.
“We stand at roadblocks, and perform our duties every day, including functions that are not typical of the police,” he added.
Vyhivsky said that the police are ready to help the TRCs, but personally, the police will not physically go handing out summonses,” at least until such a norm is established by law and our function is not determined.
What about the mobilization of the police officers to the front?
Vyhivsky said that the police are ready to mobilize if such a decision is made. At the same time, he said that since the first day of the war, the police have been fighting and carrying out combat orders.
“These include the Lyut [Assault Brigade] and combined squads from all regions,” Vyhivsky said. “If we mobilize more police officers, we will have a problem with staffing, and this may affect the crime-related situation.”
According to the head of the department, the police are not taking out the mobilization resources. In 2022 and 2023, the police were very careful about whom to recruit.
“The possibility of evaders getting in is excluded; we have the appropriate databases according to which we check people,” said Vyhivsky.
According to him, 60 percent of police officers are young people aged 18 to 25. The Lyut Assault Brigade also consists mostly of young people under the age of 27. About 30 percent of the brigade’s participants were in the ranks of the police even before Russia’s full-scale invasion.
“In the first days, we released everyone who decided to join the army because we don’t have a transfer mechanism to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Therefore, it was possible to do this only through dismissal from the National Police. Other police who wanted to fight went to the Lyut assault brigade,” said Vyhivsky.
Is there a shortage of personnel in the police?
Vyhivsky said that there is a shortage of patrol police officers at the National Police - the understaffing is more than 20 percent for patrol officers with an overall understaffing of 17.5 percent.
“The number is stable, and we understand that it is necessary to replenish the mobilization resource; therefore, we are currently holding a minimum number of competitions, and we recruit as necessary,” he explained.
The head of the National Police assured that if there are questions about the deployment of more policemen at the front, then the ranks of the policemen will be replenished.
“While we are working with 98 thousand employees, it was like that before the war,” he said.
Crime Rates in Ukraine
Vyhivsky said that the level of crime in Ukraine did not increase during the two years of full-scale war, while the total number of crimes increased.
“Street crime has decreased in almost all regions. As for the total number of crimes, it has increased, including the registration of serious and especially serious crimes,” Vyhivska said.
First, this is explained by changes in the legislation: previously, simple thefts were classified as minor crimes, but now they are classified as committed in wartime and are already serious. Second, the police document war crimes during wartime.
“Since the beginning of the war, we have documented more than 111,000 of them, and all of them are included in the general structure of crime. If we take the overall figure, it has grown. But the criminogenic situation has not changed and is under control,” Vyhivsky said.
According to him, the police also began to document and disclose more crimes related to the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, and explosives: “We began to document and disclose them many times more. Therefore, they also shape the growth of crime registration.”
Is there a curfew needed in Kyiv?
“I think so. Nightclubs and entertainment establishments should not operate. I'm sorry when we have people dying on the front every day, and here somewhere a club is throwing mass parties at night. This is disrespectful,” said Vyhivsky.
The head of the National Police believes that there should be administrative fines for curfew violations.
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