Official country name: Republic of Armenia (Hayastani Hanrapetut'yun)
Geographic description: Slightly smaller than Maryland, Armenia is located in Southwestern Asia and borders Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey. It also contains the Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave and other disputed territories.
Population: 2,982,904 (est. 2005)
Armenia was the first nation to formally adopt Christianity (early 4th century). Despite periods of autonomy, over the centuries, Armenia came under the sway of various empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian, and Ottoman. It was incorporated into Russia in 1828 and the USSR in 1920.
Armenian leaders remain preoccupied by the long conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated region, assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a cease-fire was declared, Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karabakh, but also a significant portion of Azerbaijan proper. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution.
The Armenian police was created in 1918, with the establishment of the first Republic of Armenia. Its history can be roughly divided into the periods of the First Republic (1918–1920), Soviet Armenia (1920–1991), and the Third Republic (1991 to present).
One order of business for the government of newly independent Armenia in 1918 was the establishment of the Ministry of Interior, of which the police was an integral part. In addition to enforcing law and order, the Interior Ministry was initially also responsible for communications and telegraph, railroads, and the public school system. The Armenian Parliament passed the Law on the Police on April 21, 1920, specifying its structure, jurisdiction, and responsibilities. The first Republic of Armenia ceased to exist on November 29, 1920.
Upon establishment of the Soviet regime in Armenia, the Ministry of Interior was replaced by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), which included the so-called Special Commission (better known by its
Russian abbreviation "Cheka") that was charged with rooting out "the class enemies" of the revolution. It was subordinated to the central Soviet police authorities. Between 1920 and 1940, the police agency was reorganized and renamed several times, serving as the instrument of Stalinist oppression and mass executions. Ten out of thirteen heads of the Armenian police who served between 1920 and 1940 were executed by the same agency.
By the 1950s, the police and special services were finally separated into two agencies: the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Committee for State Security (KGB). The police was an integral part of the MVD. In the 1960s and 1970s, Interior Troops were added to the Ministry structure; the Road Traffic Directorate and the School of Police were also created.
As the Soviet Union began to disintegrate in the late 1980s, the MVD became more of an Armenian national structure and, in fact, the police units were called upon to protect the Armenians living in the border regions from attacks by Azeri forces and the Soviet Army in 1990 and 1991. Hundreds of police officers joined self-defense units and were killed in action while their colleagues dealt with the rapidly rising threat of organized crime across the country.
On June 21, 1992, the Interior Troops were established by a decree of the president of Armenia as an auxiliary unit of the Ministry of Interior. New units, including Organized Crime Enforcement, Drug Enforcement, and Economic Crime departments were established within the police. The School of Police was reorganized into the Police Academy. Armenia joined Interpol in 1992, and began to cooperate closely with its counterparts in foreign countries.
In 1996 the Ministry of Interior merged with the Ministry of National Security, but these two agencies were separated in 1999.
The Law on the Police was passed by the Armenian National Assembly on April 16, 2001, and April 16 is now celebrated as Police Day. In accordance with Armenia's obligations under its accession to the Council of Europe, the Law on Police Service was passed on June 30, 2002, providing for the Ministry of Interior to be reorganized into the Police of the Republic of Armenia on January 1, 2003.
The Police of the Republic of Armenia (PRA) is territorially divided into Central Headquarters and 11 police departments (one each for the City of Yerevan and 10 provinces) that are further subdivided into 52 police precincts.
The PRA also includes the Interior Troops, training and education centers, as well as other auxiliary organizations.
The PRA Central Headquarters is at the top of the police command structure and is comprised of the Offices of the Chief, Deputy Chiefs, and specialized branches (Directorates and Divisions).
Among the operations branches are the Organized Crime Enforcement Directorate, Criminal Investigations Directorate, and the Drug Enforcement Directorate. Other important branches are the Operations Staff, Investigations Directorate, Public Safety Directorate, Personnel (Human Resources) Directorate, Information Department, Public Relations and Press Directorate, Financial-Economic Directorate, Administrative Directorate, Road Inspection Directorate, Transportation Directorate, Passports and Visa Directorate, State Protection Directorate, National Central Bureau of Interpol, Criminal Forensics Directorate, Legal Directorate, and Health Directorate.
The activities of the police are directed by the Chief of Police, who is appointed by the President at the nomination of the Prime Minister. The Chief has one First Deputy and several Deputies who are appointed by the President at the nomination of the Chief. The Commander of the Interior Troops is appointed by the President, and serves as ex officio Deputy Chief of the Police. Each Deputy Chief is assigned a sphere of responsibility by the Chief of Police. The Chief is assisted by a group of Advisers to the Chief.
As is the case in most police agencies of the former Soviet Union, the Armenian police has undergone dramatic and frequent restructuring since independence from the USSR. The current structure goes by the name of Police Service as opposed to the more commonly used Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Internal Affairs in other states. The Interior Ministry was abolished in 2002 by Armenian president Robert Kocharian. The Police Service was placed under the direct control of Kocharian in keeping with another trend that has emerged in most former Soviet states, a very strong executive branch.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia was a weak state with powerful regional and family clans running much of the local administration and economy. Criminal gangs operated with impunity, corruption was rampant, and assassinations of political figures occurred on occasion. The stresses of war and material privation, uncertainty about the future, and widespread suspicion about the legitimacy of the ruling elites remain to this day.
Dominating the police working environment are the interrelated issues of low salaries and corruption. The average monthly income in Armenia is less than $100 and for many professions it can be as low as $10. This holds true for the police service as well; the average salary is approximately $50. Traffic police earn about $35 a
month, which was increased from $25 in 2002. Unable to survive on such a low wage, police frequently resort to demanding bribes for services that should be performed as part of their official duties.
Annually, about 30% of the police force receives some form of reprimand. Nineteen percent of traffic police received varying punishments for abuse of position. In 2002, 22 inspectors were discharged, 29 were demoted, and 136 received disciplinary punishment for violations. Low levels of morale, professionalism, and loyalty as well as a frequent failure to respond to the needs of citizens are...