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Police reform in Russia continues under new interior minister

August 10, 2012, 14:47 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The police reform, which the former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev initiated and during which the militia was renamed to police and the police staff was cut by 20%, continued after the appointment of Vladimir Kolokoltsev as interior minister this year. The reshuffles among the police top officials are made constantly. The new minister stated that during the police reform the principle of police accessibility was violated and instructed the working group for further police reform to revise the police numerical strength. The police numerical strength per capita is manifold higher in Russia than in Western countries.

The experts believed that the number of policemen can be reduced only by changing the whole law enforcement system.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree to appoint the former chief of the Moscow criminal search department Oleg Baranov Moscow police chief. Kazimir Botashev was appointed a new police chief in the North Caucasus Federal District.

The appointments and reshuffles in the Interior Ministry are reported almost every week. Under the presidential decrees about 20 high-ranking police officials were dismissed. The experts hope that these were not nominal reshuffles over the appointment of the new interior minister, but the launch of a real police reform.

The head of the Investigation Department in the Moscow police was reshuffled. The head of the search information department of the Interior Ministry, the head of the main private security department were fired. In Russian regions the head of the police department in the Kirov Region, the Bashkir deputy interior minister, the heads of the main police departments in the Southern Federal District and the Central Federal District were dismissed.

The president traditionally did not disclose the reasons for reshuffles. Some dismissed high-ranking police officials were involved in corruption scandals.

“A real police reform continues. The reform is seeking to optimize the police recruitment policy and that corrupt, clan-based system, which had emerged in the police for the last few years,” the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily quoted Director General of the Centre of Political Information Alexei Mukhin as saying. “Today we witness the technical replacement of corruptionists with professionals,” he said.

The political expert noted that the dismissals will continue unless the ministry renovates fully. “This is a carte blanche, which Putin gave to new Interior Minister Kolokoltsev,” the expert believes.

“Currently police officials, who showed themselves as quite unqualified or who are hampering the police reform, are being dismissed. The policy of the new interior minister is seeking for cardinal changes in the police,” member of the Public Council under the Russian Interior Ministry Vladimir Khimanych noted.

This policy mainly embraces the private security police services and the Investigation Departments, “Since the early 2000s the level of work of investigators has dropped sharply,” he noted.

The Russian police staff has been cut by 20% that is a little more than a year ago, and Vladimir Kolokoltsev already said about the need to revise the police numerical strength. Although the police staff per capita in Russia is manifold higher than in European countries and moreover than in the United States. Some 7.7 policemen account for 1,000 citizens in the country. For comparison, 2.1 policemen fell on 1,000 citizens in the Soviet Union.

The All-Russian Scientific and Research Institute of the Russian Interior Ministry and all educational establishments of the Interior Ministry are working on the problem, what the optimal police staff should be, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily cited chief expert of the organizing and personnel department of the Interior Ministry Mikhail Makov. It turns out that provided all weekends, vacations, personal days off for reinforcement and duty missions are duly given, there should be more policemen than now, he said. In some services the police staff should be doubled.

The point is not to bring back the 20% of dismissed policemen, he adds. But one should realize that there will be more policemen in Russia in any case than in other countries. For instance, this will be so over an enormous Russian territory.

Vladimir Kolokoltsev noted recently that during the police reform the principle of police accessibility was breached. In rural districts the police stations were reduced or even abolished. Now people have to go to a police station for hundreds of kilometres sometimes. The minister instructed the working group for further police reform to reconsider the police numerical strength.

“We should make our estimates on the basis of the number of crimes. According to various estimates, Russia has about 25 millions of concealed and unreported crimes,” head of the unofficial police trade union Mikhail Pashkin, who is a member of this working group, believes.

The number of policemen can be brought down, only changing the whole law enforcement system, Pashkin pointed out. If to eliminate the duplicating functions, the staff of investigators and operatives can be cut down. “As a matter of fact, we have a very burdensome bureaucratic system, which swallows a huge number of man-hours,” he remarked.

The only solution is to redistribute the police staff in favors of district police stations. “In the Soviet times the Chief Directorate of the Interior Ministry and district police stations worked in Moscow. Now the police directorates in all Russian federal districts were formed for some unclear reasons. The police generals, their aides, secretaries and technical personnel are sitting there,” he underlined.

Moscow, August 10