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MOSCOW, October 29 (Itar-Tass) - The Interior Ministry’s reform, carried out in 2010-2011 has merely aggravated its problems, as follows from a program for maintaining public law order and for resisting corruption, placed on the official portal regulation.gov.ru. The draft is open to a wide public discussion. Commentaries by experts vary - from calls for restoring the police force’s original name to insistent proposals for going ahead with the reform but in an evolutionary way.
The just-published document says that the purpose of the new program is to improve the operation of the police force - minimize the negative effects of some measures taken to reform the Interior Ministry system, such as staff cuts, redistribution of functions and the loss of certain experience and crucial links in the course of reorganization of certain units and services.
As a result of the reform the strength of the Interior Ministry’s personnel operating in the field was slashed by 30%-40%, while the number of head offices was increased.
The 20% staff reduction of the police force has left many rural districts without local police inspectors. Police patrol divisions experience personnel shortages even in large cities. Many educational establishments within the Interior Ministry’s system have been closed down, which harmed the professional level of many police. Certain aspects of police work, such as struggle against organized ethnic crime, have been abolished. These measures taken under the law on the police have already cost the taxpayers two billion roubles (60 million dollars).
The early re-attestation of the police personnel has ended in failure. Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev was forced to introduce the principle of police officers’ personal responsibility for their subordinates. The people’s confidence in the law enforcement system has continued to dwindle.
The Russian police get mostly negative comments from the man in the street, as follows from an opinion poll held by the Centre for the Studies of Institutions and Development at the Higher School of Economics. The respondents were asked to rate the performance of the police on a five-point scale. The police got a 2.78 mark. The statement to the effect Russian police activities make one feel pride and the triumph of justice received a below three points rating, the statement police were unbribable got a three-point rating, and the promptness of response - three points of the maximum five. Also, three of the possible five points were awarded to the statement “our police serve the law.” Three and a half points were collected by such replies as “the police think about money and nothing else,” and the police do not protect the interests of civilians.” Moreover, the people of Moscow said that police treat people of different ethnic nationalities and races differently.
According to media sources, the Russian police may launch a counter-reform soon. The top officials of the Interior Ministry and the State Duma believe that the Interior Ministry should get back a number of its functions. For instance, district offices of the Interior Ministry should be restored in the capitals of regions. The State Duma has received about a hundred proposals for amendments to the law on the police, including the restoration of the old Soviet-era name. However, the head of the State Duma’s security committee, Irina Yarovaya, said that no radical changes to the law were on the agenda at the moment. The legislators and the Interior Ministry will confine themselves to reviewing the law enforcement practices.
The chief of the coordinating centre of the Moscow police trade union has told the daily Kommersant in fact there has been no reform yet.
“It was an anti-reform, an act of violence against the Interior Ministry. It destabilized the work a great deal. As a result of attestation and re-attestation many normal police were dismissed for being not loyal to the superiors, although they knew the laws well and were doing an excellent job. Now it has turned out that there are no professionals who would be able to work. Professionalism is at the freezing point. The destructive reform produced a situation where the law enforcement system was staffed by criminals who first steal their own cars, then get insurance payments, annul the vehicles’ registration and then sell them again. The reform is to be started with the courts. The police force is worth literally nothing. In fact, it is the provider of cash for the prosecutors’ offices and the Investigative Committee. All this law enforcement system no longer works for the state. It just sucks cash out of people’s pockets.”
Police Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Mikhailov disagrees. In an interview to ITAR-TASS he said that the reform of the police has brought about many changes for the better.
“When Vladimir Kolokoltsev took over the Interior Ministry, the parameters of policing improved a lot. This has been noticed at the official level. The next steps should reduce the staff of the central office and place the emphasis on good policing in regions. Call for another reform of the Interior Ministry are heard from those who have no idea of what how the enforcement agencies really work. I have spent a greater part of my life in the service and I am certain that we have had more than enough experiments with reforming the Interior Ministry.