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Ukraine: YouTube Helps Discipline Traffic Police

On Jan. 22, a Ukrainian police officer was filmed [ENG] speaking insolently to a driver he had stopped in the city of Odesa in southern Ukraine, and making offensive comments about the state language. In particular, the video shows the driver addressing the officer in Ukrainian and the policeman replying in Russian that he “does not understand [this] calvish language.”

Although the video documents [RUS] many other offenses committed by the policeman, it is this particular comment that has drawn public attention. In Ukraine, the official state language is Ukrainian, native to 67.5% of the population, according to the 2001 census. The second most used language is Russian, with 29.6% of the population considering it their mother tongue. Although the primary language spoken in Odesa is Russian, according to the country’s Constitution, Ukrainian must be used in the public sphere, in particular, when state officials exercise their immediate duties [UKR].

After the video appeared on YouTube, the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior instructed [UKR] the Traffic Police Department to conduct an internal investigation into the incident, which uncovered that, while fulfilling his duties, the policeman – Sergeant Shvets – has violated at least three laws, including the Constitution. For the police officer in question these findings resulted in an immediate job loss.

This incident, although widely publicized, is not the first case of unlawful actions committed by traffic police exposed through the Internet. In August 2010, for example, a video of a traffic inspector from the town of Haisyn insulting a driver was uploaded to YouTube, after which the officer was fired [RUS]. Another policeman from the Crimean city of Dzhankoy was investigated and then fired [RUS] after a video of him harassing a driver appeared online.

Amidst such cases, the Ukrainian public has learned about a civic initiative called “Road Control.” According to the project’s website [RUS], its central advice to drivers is to know their rights and to openly film their encounters with police officers. For instance, “Road Control” claims [RUS] that it was one of their activists who filmed Sergeant Shvets mentioned above.

After the recent events, the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior has ordered [UKR] additional legal training for its traffic inspectors, while stressing unacceptability of offensive language or signs of discrimination of any kind towards citizens by its employees. Moreover, in a December 2010 interview to the TV channel “1+1″ a spokesperson for the Kyiv Traffic Police Department admitted that the use of cameras was helping both drivers and police officers to “avoid ambiguous situations” [UKR].

While the number of corrupt traffic cops being exposed online continues to grow, more and more Ukrainian drivers install cameras in their vehicles [UKR].

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