Then and now: improving police capacity for enforcement saves lives in Moldova
One of the first projects completed by EASST in 2010 involved a series of exchange visits between specialists on road policing from Moldova, the UK and Georgia. The project was organised by EASST working with its partners in Moldova and Georgia – the Automobile Club of Moldova (ACM) and Partnership for Road Safety (PfRS).
The project came at the request of the Government of the Republic of Moldova, who wanted to address issues of corruption within the road police force as part of implementing an effective National Road Safety Strategy. The aim of the project, which was supported by the World Bank, was to provide an indication of where problems lie and recommend solutions for improving road safety enforcement and ending corruption in road policing. The project had the full backing of the Deputy Prime Minister, Moldovan Ministry for Internal Affairs and Chief of Police. In 2013, the ACM and EASST were awarded a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for their role in the project which ultimately led to wholesale reform in road policing in Moldova.
The teams assembled by EASST – including senior, operational road police from the UK and Georgia – found the Moldovan road police to be desperately under-resourced and poorly trained, with virtually no enforcement equipment, very low salaries and 10-year old, uncomfortable uniforms. Their morale and self-esteem were extremely poor. Communications and strategic direction were also sorely lacking.
There was a particular interest in learning from the Georgian example where road police corruption had been all but eradicated in 2003. During the exchange, Moldovan police delegates were hosted by the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs who covered in detail the reform process and the work done by each police unit. Delegates were shown examples of patrol vehicles and equipment, and visited the training academy to learn how the traffic police were striving for ever-higher benchmarks of training and skills for their officers. As a post-Soviet country, the Georgian example was particularly useful to Moldova as it demonstrated that bribery and corruption were not ingrained, and that change was possible.
The UK provided insight into the use of technology in road policing, how to promote police ethics and professional conduct, as well as ideas for effective road safety enforcement. While police corruption is at a low level in the UK, cases of corruption do occur. The project sought to study how, once corruption has been eliminated, it can then be kept at bay.
As a result, the Moldovan authorities gained an insight into ways to reform and professionalise their road police. A project report was published including recommendations by both UK and Georgian delegations. This formed the basis of the police reform bill that was eventually adopted by the government of Moldova. It is worth noting that the biggest factor that led to the success of the project was the political support it received from the highest levels of government and police.
Within just two years there had been reforms of the Driver Examination Centres in all major cities, making the ‘purchase’ of driving licences virtually impossible, and a programme of community policing, including road safety sessions in schools was introduced.
Shortly thereafter EASST partner Serghei Diaconu, then President of the ACM, was appointed as Head of the Road Traffic Police and subsequently Deputy Minister of Interior. In these roles, at great personal and professional risk, Serghei took a zero tolerance approach to implementing reform. Under his leadership, over 30 per cent of the traffic police force was replaced with younger, well-trained officers as well as significantly more female officers. Speed cameras were installed along major routes. The ancient Soviet police vehicle fleet was replaced with new patrol vehicles fitted with cameras. Officers received new uniforms, new equipment, and increased salaries. A new anti-bribery unit was set up within the police and all officers received anti-bribery and corruption training.
Nationwide campaigns were launched to inform people that bribery would no longer be tolerated. For example, a ‘White Night’ campaign was established as a new model of police operation to tackle drink driving. It involved setting up check points on major roads and stopping every car to breath test the driver. Media and TV stations were invited to witness and report these events. On just the first night, 97 drunk drivers were caught including two public prosecutors, four police officers, two customs officials and a diplomat. The campaign sent a clear public message that every one was equal and that even people in positions of authority would not be immune to the new penalties. It also reaped a huge reduction in cases of drink driving – from 14% of vehicles stopped to less than 3%.
At the same time, a new traffic police unit was built, the National Patrolling Inspectorate (NPI), to work with local communities and develop preventative actions to reduce road traffic violations. Public confidence in the traffic police increased from less than 10% to 57%. What’s more, the rate of traffic violations has decreased and the rate of road casualties has almost halved: showing that tackling corruption and improving police capacity for enforcement really can save lives.
 The full project report ‘Road Safety Enforcement and Traffic Policing in Moldova: Report of the Moldova/Georgia/UK Police Exchange Programme’ can be accessed at https://www.easst.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/moldova_report.pdf
 Tamuna Karosanidze, TI-Georgia, National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan: Elaboration and Implementation, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre; Bergen, Norway, 2009, p.11; Giorgi Kvelashvili, Success of Georgia Police Reform Is a Function of Sovereignty, Jamestown Foundation, 22 April 2010, citing International Republican Institute opinion survey, Georgian National Study, March 2010, p.46.
 The majority of these reforms were funded through the European Union, US Embassy to Moldova and the UK Embassy to Moldova.