Armenian riot police have long been accused by civic groups of using disproportionate force against citizens.
Many in Armenia blame their heavy-handedness for 10 deaths in street violence that followed the disputed presidential election of February 2008.
The U.S. government, far from shying away from the embattled force, has agreed to help train Armenian riot police. U.S instructors will soon launch a course for Armenian police on new and less heavy-handed methods of crowd control practiced in the West, a U.S. official said on December 22.
John Maher, head of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) section at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, said U.S. law-enforcement officials will teach their Armenian colleagues how to avoid unnecessary use of force and respect human rights during street protests and other public gatherings.
Maher reserved judgment on the conduct of Armenian police during the disputed February 2008 street clashes.
The real [U.S. government] assessment," Maher said, "would be the description of those events contained in the State Department's  human rights report... But I think everybody recognizes that ten fatalities was a terrible thing."
-- Michael Hirshman and Tigran Avetisian