HCA Vanadzor summed up the indices characterizing the actions of RA law enforcement bodies before and after the Velvet Revolution
The report was prepared in the frame of “Increasing the effectiveness of protection of citizens' rights in police-citizen relations” project implemented by HCA Vanadzor with the financial support of Norwegian Helsinki Committee and with the involvement of APR Group NGO.
The aim of the survey conducted by HCA Vanadzor in all the RA marzes (regions) and Yerevan in May 2019 was to count the indices of arbitrariness of RA law enforcement bodies (Police, courts, Prosecutor’s Office), as well as the indices of trust in RA Police. The report also includes information regarding the extent to which citizens trust law enforcement bodies, whether they are ready to cooperate with the Police and how they assess the work of Police and human rights organizations. The report was conducted taking into consideration the education, social-economic conditions, gender and main sources of information of the population.
The surveys were conducted in August 2015-2016, May 2017 and May 2019, among 1200 persons aged 18 or above residing in all the RA regions and Yerevan.
It should be noted that the results of the study conducted in 2019 are pre-revolutionary and as compared to similar studies conducted in 2015, 2016 and 2017, they discovered a number of patterns, changes and tendencies in public perceptions of the actions of law enforcement bodies.
Thus, the values of the indices of “Arbitrariness of law enforcement bodies” and “Trust in Police” are directly related to the socio-political events in the country and the involvement of law enforcement bodies in them, which can obviously be seen from the difference of the two sets of data in 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2019. In 2016, in connection with the capture of RA Police Patrol-Guard Service Regiment, the values of those indices lowered, the work style of law enforcement bodies changed during the events that followed. During that period, the public described the activity of law enforcement bodies as a tool for the ruling political power to suppress political opponents. Besides, while the index of “Arbitrariness of law enforcement bodies” was negative (lower than 0) in 2016, it increased and became positive in 2017.
Public perceptions around the following question are also noteworthy, “According to you, how often do the RA authorities use law enforcement bodies as a method to suppress the opposition (political opponents)?”. Previously, the answers were in the negative range. However, according to the data of 2019 survey, perceptions considerably changed: “-17”, recorded in 2017, increased up to “+43.1” in 2019. Undoubtedly, political processes following the Velvet Revolution of April 2018 had a decisive role in the changes of perceptions. Moreover, it is obvious that before the Velvet Revolution, the respondents perceived law enforcement bodies as the authorities’ tool to suppress the opposition. However, after the Revolution, when the new authorities rejected the work style of the former authorities, those perceptions changed. The Velvet Revolution changed public perception of the conduct and work style of law enforcement bodies.
The influence of socio-political processes of 2018 is clearly reflected in 2019 survey results. In addition to the revolution that took place with the participation of various segments of society, people also witnessed manifestations of the conduct of former and new authorities, as well as changes in the work style of the Police, which, in its turn, was reflected in the indices characterizing the actions of law enforcement system. Society was a participant in the victory of the new government, thus the stereotype of Police being used by the authorities significantly changed.
In 2015, the value of “The index of arbitrariness of law enforcement bodies” was 0; in 2016, it decreased and reached -6; in 2017, it increased up to 7; in 2019, it increased up to 35. The values of this index and component indices were the lowest in Yerevan in 2015-2017 and in Syunik in 2019. It is noteworthy that the indices were the lowest among urban dwellers over the years, while in regard to gender, the indices of 2015-2017 survey results were relatively lower among male than female representatives. As to the level of education, the higher it is, the lower “The index of arbitrariness of law enforcement bodies” is with its component indices, and vice versa, the lower the level of education, the higher the positive values of the index.
According to 2016, 2017 and 2019 data, the assessments of the work of law enforcement bodies were also observed according to the main sources of information of the respondents. Thus, according to 2016 and 2017 surveys, the majority of respondents, whose main source of information was TV, assessed the work of law enforcement bodies as positive; the majority of those getting information from social sites and online media gave negative assessments. In 2019, positive trends increased among both those getting information from TV and those getting information from online media and social sites.
Though survey indices vary from year to year, “The index of trust in Police” has always been positive, i.e. higher than 30. This indicates that though people have always attributed arbitrariness and illegalities to Police, negative dispositions that significantly decreased in 2019 show that in public consciousness, there are positive expectations from the Police as a law enforcement body.
The survey also covers people’s perception of safe/secure places, which, too, has changed. Previously, “Crowded places during social and/or political mass events” was considered the least safe/secure option. However, in 2019, the level of public perception of that place as unsafe significantly decreased.
It should be recorded that the indices of assessments of the work of courts and Prosecutor’s Office have also undergone positive changes after the revolution. The type of the residence place, gender and education level were decisive in this matter, since in both cases it is conditioned by the direct connection with law enforcement bodies.
The survey conducted by HCA Vanadzor states that the political events conditioned by 2018 Velvet Revolution significantly increased the public’s positive attitude towards Police and other security agencies, and enhanced the sense of safety/security during public events. To achieve more, it is necessary to take steps to maintain positive perceptions and prevent crimes. “The policeman is ours”, “childhood friend policeman Ashot”, “non-violent, velvet revolution of open hands” and other slogans, widely circulated during the revolution days, also played a significant role for the public opinion. Besides, Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation is also notable, when people and policemen hugged each other in the streets. Perceptions of past conflicts in policeman-citizen relations turned into harmony after the revolution. It must be rooted in the public consciousness that the Police are a body performing their duties prescribed by law, and the increase of trust in Police is directly related to impartial and unconditional provision of public security, maintenance of public order, discovery of crimes, prevention of crimes and other offences, as well as ensuring people’s safety/security. Only in that condition can trust in police and policemen strengthen in society.
HCA Vanadzor records that media play a great irreplaceable role in this matter as they influence and change the public opinion by covering issues objectively and impartially.
The full report is available HERE (in Armenian)