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Linking Polish Police and the World

Alumnus Lt. Col. Rafal Wasiak has spent 18 years of service with the Polish National Police Force as a spokesman and as an official interpreter.

Lt. Col. Rafal Wasiak, Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish National Police and a Sam Houston State University graduate, travels the world to enhance international dialog on policing procedures.

After 18 years of service, including his current position as Adjutant to the Commander-in-Chief, it’s hard to imagine that he did not originally start out with the goal of joining the national law enforcement agency.

“My basic education, it may sound funny, was to be a teacher of the Polish language,” said Wasiak. “I got my first Master’s degree at the University of Warsaw, in the second part of the 80s, and then I became a journalist. I worked in a few advertising agencies and then I got an offer to become a police officer to initially work in the press office.”

Despite being hired to work in their press offices, Lt. Col. Wasiak went through the same steps as any new cadet in the Polish National Police. Poland’s police force has a centralized, paramilitary structure where all training is standardized.

“I had to go through the same professional path like any other police cadet,” said Lt. Col. Wasiak. “Basic training was six months of the 'ABCs' of how to be a police officer. (It was) a lot of theory; a lot of physical exercises; how to handle a police baton; how to handle a pistol; first steps in police activities; how to handle a domestic violence situation; how to handle a situation on the streets, etc.”

As a part of the press office, Lt. Col. Wasiak’s responsibilities included dispersing information to the general public. It was a task that was far from simple in many cases, such as when a farmer’s union strike almost brought traffic to a standstill in many parts of Poland.

“They were pushing for some change, and they decided to block our major highways,” said Lt. Col. Wasiak. “They took equipment like all these trucks, these tractors, and they started to block our traffic system. The traffic had been diverted (detours), but the strike lasted for a few weeks, because it was a long term operation organized by farmers’ unions.”

As the national police dealt with directing traffic around these obstacles, the press office fielded questions from around the country. Lt. Col. Wasiak helped to establish press offices in each of the country’s 16 state police headquaters to help funnel information locally.

“It was quite a stressful situation with hundreds of questions from journalists,” Lt. Col. Wasiak said. “So, we were always on alert, days and nights during this period. Hundreds of questions, hundreds of interviews. We did not sleep much.”

Lt. Col. Wasiak’s ability to speak both English and Russian, along with his native Polish, would later propel him to his next assignment in the Bureau of International Police Cooperation. This new position took advantage of his translating abilities and allowed him travel the world and discuss new ways of managing crime.

Poland is a part of the European Union and the Schengen Area, which allows free movement of goods and people between partner nations. Because of the lack of borders between countries in much of Europe, Poland must deal with many varieties of transnational crimes. Lt. Col. Wasiak was in charge of cooperative partnerships with other nations to bring criminals to justice.

“We have cooperatives to prevent and fight international crime,” said Wasiak. “We do training exchanges, conferences, and exchange police information and data through Interpol and Europol. We find the best methods to fight such issues as trafficking of human beings, narcotics, white collar crime and cybercrime.”

In his current position as Adjutant, Lt. Col. Wasiak serves as the right-hand assistant to the Commander-in-Chief, General Marek Działoszyński, the head of the Polish National Police. In addition to keeping his calendar and setting up meetings, Lt. Col. Wasiak also briefs the Commander on key issues, both domestically and internationally. He frequently travels the world at his side and acts as an official interpreter.

To help keep abreast of the latest information on research and practices in the criminal justice field, Poland has developed professional exchange programs, including one with Sam Houston State University. For many years, law enforcement and correctional professionals from the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas and the Correctional Management Institute of Texas have visited Poland. Meanwhile officials from the Polish National Police and the Polish Prison Service have come to the U.S. These delegations aim to learn more about the latest criminal justice developments in each country.

The College of Criminal Justice’s program with the Polish National Police has only strengthened over the years. In fact, Lt. Col. Wasiak earned another Master’s degree, this time in Criminal Justice and Criminology, from the College of Criminal Justice.

“Without international cooperation, I do not see a future for the police force,” Lt. Col. Wasiak said. “Criminal organizations are not working locally. They are not even working nationally. They are acting, many of them, internationally.”

As a message to the current students of SHSU, Lt. Col. Wasiak had a few passing words of advice for those who wish to make it in the field of criminal justice.

“My message is to travel as much as possible, visit other countries if there is an opportunity, and observe other people,” he said. “Then you will become more experienced. You will become more tolerant and it will help your career.”

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