Randy Upton, a recently retired lieutenant from the Houston Police Department, recounted to reporters his experiences training Ukrainian police officers in 2016. The very officers he trained are now soldiers defending their country against Russian troops.
Upton made several visits to Ukraine to provide tactical training to new police officers in the country. He believes that the training he provided to Ukrainian soldiers years ago could prove helpful now that the country is engaged in war.
“We’ve taught them a lot of tactical training,” he told Fox 26 in a recent interview. “Firearms training, a lot of crowd control training, and critical thinking. I’d like to believe that’s helping out right now.”
Upton participated in a 2016 training program organized by the U.S. Department of Justice called the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). The program aimed to stabilize the country following the 2014 Maidan revolution.
The ICITAP deployed officers from participating police departments across the nation to Ukraine to help the country transition its police from a “Russian-style militia” to a U.S.-style patrol-based police force. The program was intended “to combat corruption and protect human rights.”
Included in the ICITAP was the Mentoring Training Officer Project (MTOP), which was composed of advisors like Upton who provided weeks of training to members of the Kharkiv Patrol Police Department and the Kyiv Police Department.
Upton, along with at least five other police officers from the Houston P.D., visited Ukraine on 10 separate trips to train the country’s new police officers.
“The Ukrainian people are very proud and they’re very strong,” Upton said. “They have the will to fight for their country. I believe they’ll continue doing so.”
Upton has been in contact with many of the Ukrainian police officers he’s met and developed friendships with in the recent days following the Russian invasion. Many of the country’s police officers are now operating as soldiers.
But Upton admits he is anxious.
“I pray nightly and I pray daily [for them],” Upton said. “My heart pounds every time it takes a while for one of them to reply.”
One Ukrainian officer sent a selfie wearing a bulletproof vest with a “Don’t mess with Texas” patch.
Upton was proud, and he hopes the training he imparted to the officers-turned-soldiers will come in handy.
“When I saw that on there, it made me proud,” he said. “Hopefully our training we gave them keeps them alive and protecting their country.”