In Ukraine, the Civil Network OPORA has cooperated with law enforcement in innovative ways to increase transparency, reduce tensions and build trust between law enforcement and civil society around elections. Such positive partnerships can help mitigate risks that law enforcement will be used as a tool for government interference in elections by exerting pressure or persecuting opponents.
In this new resource, OPORA discusses how the organization established and continues to foster cooperation with law enforcement around elections in Ukraine, and provides recommendations on how to establish this relationship. One of OPORA’s first strategies was to establish a coordination center between civil society and relevant law enforcement agencies to exchange information regarding the electoral process for the 2015 elections. OPORA’s observers began to document breaches of law enforcement conduct and monitor court proceedings and decisions related to the elections, which OPORA continues to track on an ongoing basis. As part of OPORA’s cooperation with law enforcement, OPORA also conducted trainings for approximately 3000 police officers and investigators to explain electoral processes, discuss electoral fraud, and share best practices for documenting potential violations. In addition, OPORA helped develop the “Electoral Fraud in the Operations of the National Police of Ukraine” training course at the Lviv State University of Internal Affairs for law students and current law enforcement officers. Awareness raising was also a critical part of OPORA’s strategy; a voter awareness campaign on the risks of electoral fraud for the 2019 elections reached over 48 million viewers.
OPORA’s experiences with law enforcement in Ukraine demonstrate the significant time and effort it takes to develop positive and cooperative relationships with government institutions. Among OPORA’s recommendations to civil society groups looking to establish cooperation with law enforcement is to be consistent and open in building trust, develop their own reputation for expertise and independence, and partner with organizations with shared aspirations and values to engage more stakeholders and resources.
Read more about OPORA’s efforts to work with law enforcement on the electoral process and their recommendations on their website!