FBI methods help bring law and order to ex-Soviet republics
Jan. 18, 1997
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ Maj. Ghenadi Cosovan is one tough and bright cop. But his training under the Soviet system has not primed him for this basic lesson _ even the most contemptible criminal has rights.
``The human being ... of paramount importance,'' he mused after a ``Human Dignity'' session at the International Law Enforcement Academy. ``I like that. This doesn't happen in Moldova.''
The course on human rights early on in the eight-week session has little to do with the training that Cosovan received back home. But that's the aim of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other U.S. crime agencies that run this school _ to give students from the former Soviet bloc something they can't learn at home.
``The idea is to get them thinking in new ways, to help them fight crime in new ways,'' said U.S. Customs agent Peter D. Liston, an instructor from Miami.
But can Cosovan and others like him make a change back home, in systems riddled with corruption?
``Not overnight,'' Liston acknowledged. ``But we're in this for the long term.''
The school, founded April 24, 1995, to help former Soviet bloc police cope with the explosion of crime released by the collapse of communism, has graduated more than 300 students.
Alongside strict crime-busting topics _ ``Gangs and Gang Resistance,'' ``Domestic Money Laundering'' _ are lessons in human rights and acting strictly within the law.
That's a revelation to officers taught under the Soviet system that the state _ and its police _ can do no wrong. Police Maj. Bulat Akhmetov said his country, Kazakstan, was just beginning to protect individual rights.
Old prejudices also crumble at the academy.
The barrel-chested Cosovan said that under communism, ``one of our training drills was throwing knives at the outline of an American soldier on the wall.'' Such images fade as the students get to know their instructors _ senior investigator Almaz Bazarkbajev of Kyrgyzstan said he quickly found the Americans to be ``very nice guys.''
Courses have just begun, and the task back home is enormous _ containing explosions of crime, much of it linked to drugs, unparalleled in the West.
Nearly eight weeks have passed. Graduation ceremonies are near, and many of the students are men transformed.
They have soaked up the latest methods on fighting car thieves and bank robbers from American, British and Irish instructors. New skills include dealing with nuclear smugglers, interrogation techniques that rely on mind instead of muscle, and the subtle expertise of ``Managing the Problem Employee.''
After weeks of exercise and ``Wellness,'' dozens have stopped smoking. Many say the nights of binge drinking are a thing of the past.
But the biggest change is inside.
Akhmetov said his anti-American slant had given way to recognition that ``we all are in the same boat with one common enemy _ organized crime.''
Bazarkbajev said he, too, is less biased.
``Before coming here, I would never have contacted a Moldovan or a Kazak,'' the Kirghiz said. ``Some prejudices always existed before. Now there aren't any.''
And Cosovan? He said he no longer will look the other way if a colleague does something wrong.
``I was a different person when I arrived here, I tolerated things,'' he said. ``Now I know that if I keep silent, nothing will change.''