January 14, 2023 

A memorable two days with police in Ukraine 


PERF members, 

I’ve had many memorable weeks in my time leading PERF, but this past week may top them all. As I’ve written before, I’ve watched coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in horror over the past 11 months. In October, we had representatives from the Ukraine National Police speak at our Town Hall Meeting at the IACP Conference in Dallas, and I wanted to know how PERF might be able to help. 

In recent months, I’ve developed a relationship with leaders of the Kyiv Regional Police, including General Andrii Nebytov, who leads the department, and Irina Pryanishnikova, the head of the department’s communications division. In November, they joined PERF’s board of directors for a Zoom call to share information about the challenges they’re facing. As we entered winter, they really needed clothing and footwear to keep their officers warm. With support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the help of former Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld, who is now the chief security officer at Under Armour, we purchased 1,000 sets of Under Armour boots and ColdGear tops and bottoms for officers in the Kyiv Regional Police. I greatly appreciate the support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for funding this gift, as well as Under Armour for their help in making it happen. 

In addition to providing material support, I wanted to witness the day-to-day challenges of the Ukrainian police firsthand. This week, I flew with two of my staff members, Tom Wilson and James McGinty, to Warsaw, then we took a 15-hour overnight train from Warsaw to Kyiv. Once there, General Nebytov and his staff guided us through the horrors of war. We arrived in the early morning on Wednesday, and the first thing we noticed was the darkness. Since October, the area has experienced rolling blackouts as the electrical grid has sustained repeated attacks from Russian missiles. 

We began by meeting with General Ihor Klymenko, head of the National Police of Ukraine, which oversees all city and regional police departments in the country. We heard about the issues police are facing nationwide, including the urgent need for police to provide humanitarian assistance and investigate war crimes during the ongoing fighting in the eastern part of the country. There are approximately 100,000 police officers in Ukraine, and over 100 have been killed and 900 injured since the Russian invasion began last February. 

Then the Kyiv Regional Police showed us several suburban communities northwest of Kyiv that the Russian military occupied during the first few weeks of March. The Russians came through the area on their way to Kyiv, before they were turned away by the Ukrainian military at the northern outskirts of the city. While occupying the area, the Russian military destroyed buildings and killed indiscriminately, terrorizing the population. In the months since the Ukrainian military regained control of the territory, the police have been investigating the many Russian military killings of civilians as war crimes and helping the population as they grieve their losses and attempt to resume some semblance of a normal life.  

In the rest of this column, I want to share a few photos from the trip and some final thoughts. 


The shipment of Under Armour boots and ColdGear arrives at the Kyiv Regional Police facility. 


A group of people sitting around a table with flagsDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

Meeting with General Ihor Klymenko, who leads the National Police of Ukraine. 


At a press conference announcing the opening of a community police substation in Irpin. 


A damaged police station in Irpin, which is currently being rebuilt. 


Irina Pryanishnikova, public information officer for the Kyiv Regional Police, showing photos to me and Tom Wilson, PERF’s director of applied research and management. We are in a shooting range in the basement of the Irpin police station pictured above. In March, 100 people sheltered in this shooting range for 10 straight days while the Russian military occupied the territory. 


A warming tent set up by the Kyiv Regional Police in Irpin. The Kyiv area is undergoing rolling blackouts, and a large percentage of the population has no electricity at any given time. The Kyiv Regional Police have set up these tents to provide residents with snacks, hot drinks, electricity for recharging phones, and a warm place to sit. 


A police canine demonstration. Canines are playing an important role in detecting mines left behind by the Russian military. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation has provided support to expand their canine program.


The Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints in Bucha, where 116 bodies were found in a mass grave. Over 400 people were killed in Bucha during the Russian military occupation. Note the bullet holes in the church walls. 


Examining photos of the mass gravesite at the church in Bucha. 


A group of men standing in a roomDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

The captain in charge of the Bucha police station, Irina Pryanishnikova, Tom Wilson, James McGinty, Pavel Maraev, and the priest at the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints. 


A picture containing snow, outdoor, sky, sandyDescription automatically generated

A cross memorializing the place where 116 bodies were buried in a mass grave in Bucha. 


A destroyed police station in Borodyanka. 


Tom Wilson and I with the captain in charge of the Borodyanka police station. We are standing in his former office. We brought patches, challenge coins, and hats from U.S. police agencies to hand out to the officers we met.  


The police station in Makariv, which was also destroyed by the Russian military. 


Speaking with Irina Pryanishnikova, General Nebytov, and the captain in charge of the Makariv police station in the captain’s former office. 


Observing the remains of an apartment building in Borodyanka that was bombed by the Russian military. 


At every stop, I noticed that the qualities needed for good policing in peacetime can be the difference between life and death in wartime. The captain in Borodyanka showed me a video that a community member shared with him last March. It showed community members peeking over a wall to take pictures of approaching Russian tanks and soldiers. The community member was risking his life by taking that video and sending it to the police, but he had confidence that the police would know how to get that information to the military. A resistance formed, with community members sharing information with police officers they trusted, and police officers sharing that information with the military. 

And we saw the value of strong community connections at the police warming tent in Irpin. The community regularly loses electricity, so they rely on the police tent for a snack, a hot drink, and a place to stay warm in freezing temperatures. I can’t think of a clearer example of good community policing.  

I’m extremely grateful to the Kyiv Regional Police and the National Police of Ukraine for hosting us during our visit, particularly General Andrii Nebytov, Irina Pryanishnikova, and Pavel Maraev, an English-speaking volunteer who helped arrange the trip, then led us around and translated for us while we were there. And a special thanks to well-respected author Mitzi Perdue, who is a strong supporter of humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and connected me with the Kyiv Regional Police. 

Leaving Kyiv, I felt both despair and hope. I despair when thinking about the atrocities that occurred, and those that are ongoing in other parts of the country. But I’m hopeful when I see the Ukrainian people, who are demonstrating resistance and determination when facing this terror. And the police in Ukraine are providing support and leadership to their community as they all fight a common enemy.  

I’m not sure what PERF’s next steps will be, but we plan to continue our communication with the Ukrainian police and support them in any way we can.