Memo on Police Reform

Public Verdict Foundation

16/1 Khokhlovsky pereulok

Moscow 109028 Russia

Tel/fax: +7-495-916-1199


Memo on police reform[1]


Since the beginning of the 1990s the Russian public administration system has undergone a large scale reform. Law-enforcement bodies, especially the penitentiary system, have also gone through this process. However, the system did not see a consistent and comprehensive reform.

Many organisational and functional principles of the law-enforcement system have remained since soviet times, despite the fact that they do not correspond to the changed social reality. Besides, a lack of due financing of the law-enforcement system during the 1990s resulted in a drop of the professional level among law-enforcement officers and in the growth of corruption.

Nowadays the law-enforcement system is often unable to guarantee a due level of protection for people from criminal activities. Simultaneously, law-enforcement bodies themselves become dangerous for citizens and breed human rights violations, such as torture and cruel treatment. Human rights organisations regularly receive petitions from victims of malfeasance committed by law-enforcement officers. Surveys of public opinion continue to return results proving that a significant proportion of people do not trust the police force and are unsatisfied with its work[2].

There is a public demand for police reform, which is acknowledged by the authorities. For example, a public survey, conducted by the Public Verdict Foundation and the Levada Centre in December 2007, revealed that three quarters of the respondents believe that the Russian police needs reforming. More over, it is active, qualified and relatively well-off people who mostly insist on the reforms. Most Russians agree on the aims of the reform. They believe that it is necessary to start by increasing the quality and efficiency of the routine day-to day work of policemen. Almost three quarters of the respondents (74%) think that the police reform has to take into account citizens’ interests, rights and security as well as keep public order. This is also seen as the main outcome the reform should bring. The main issues to be tackled within the reform are recruitment issues (40%), maintenance supplies (33%), the respect of laws and human rights by policemen (32%) and corruption (31%)[3].

Recently there have been several changes which could be considered as measures taken to alter the situation in the law-enforcement system. For example, the adaptation of a Code of professional ethics for policemen in March 2009; a decree, signed by the Minister of Internal Affairs in late April 2009, creating units which will conduct social and psychological work in police departments; an instruction, sent by the Minister to the regional bodies of internal affairs, to improve the quality of the recruitment and promotion, as well as to check the competence of the policemen working in Moscow. The impetus for the latter was given by a tragedy which happened on April 27, 2009 in the southern part of Moscow, when the head of the Department of Internal Affairs for Tsaritsyno district opened fire on innocent people, which resulted in three people dying and six being wounded. All of the measures taken are only reactions to current events and the continuing violations committed by policemen, and can bring about only small changes.

However, the tragedy of April 27, 2009 as well as reports about other criminal actions committed by policemen which are regularly delivered by the media, prove that there is a deep crisis in the system, a lack of control over officers’ work and of the conditions which would help to prevent malfeasance. All this shows the acute necessity of an immediate and comprehensive reform of the law-enforcement system.

The system of internal affairs must be reformed in a comprehensive way, according to a thoroughly elaborated strategy and a logical and detailed plan of how to introduce the suggested changes. The priority issues for the reform should be:

  1. Modernisation of the education and additional training system for policemen.
  2. Alteration of the way the work of police departments and policemen is assessed.
  3. Optimisation of the financing policy within the system of internal affairs which would facilitate managing finances by heads of regional police.
  4. Optimisation of the human resources policy within the system, which would decrease the number of employees and increase remuneration for those who stay.
  5. Increasing transparency in the work of the police and by this increasing public trust. Achieving the transparency needed to control the wages of policemen and procedures employed by the system is possible through the introduction on a large-scale of a CCTV system for interactions between the police and citizens.
  6. Public involvement in the elaboration and launch of regulations for the interactions between police and citizens, which would increase public trust in the police.


It is reasonable to suggest creating an interdepartmental working group with the participation of representatives of civil society, which would tackle the issues of police reform.



A detailed description of the suggestions on the above-mentioned issues


1. Modernisation of the education and additional training system for policemen


Modernisation of the education and additional training system for policemen should become the biggest alteration bringing about positive effect for other issues of the reform.


The alterations needed in this sphere include:

- the introduction into the training system of practice-oriented techniques, focused on the respect of human rights during the fulfilment of their professional duties by policemen. In other words, education should cultivate the skills to perform a number of standard professional operations (it implies legal literacy, observance of particular practical procedures and respect of human rights). In the existing training system knowledge is split into different disciplines: legal, physical, tactical training etc. The issue of human rights in such system is limited and is only covered within the legal training module. At the same time it should be an integral part of all disciplines taught at police academies, for human rights should be the core of all actions of the police.

- alteration of the training system requires the alteration of the final attestation system practiced in the police academies. The final attestation should ensure, first of all, control over the proper performance of practical actions. For instance, a graduate could simulate detention of an armed criminal, performed by another graduate, conducting an investigation and other actions, while an attestation commission would assess whether he rightly applies the legal norms, uses self-defense tactics etc., as well as whether the human rights of the detainee are observed. Thanks to such a system graduates would be able to develop a strict algorithm of the actions in standard situations for the time when they take up their professional duties.

- during the training policemen should realise the primacy of human rights and freedoms over official instructions, the sake of detection of crime or the orders of superior officers. This principle is directly borrowed from the Code of professional ethics for officers serving in the Russian bodies of internal affairs, saying that “the protection of a person, his life, health, honour, dignity, rights and freedoms is a moral core of the actions of policemen.”


Besides, it is necessary to allow enough time for junior police officers to acquire the necessary skills and principles. Currently the training period in Russia is significantly shorter than in most European countries.


All these suggested measures will help policemen to develop the necessary principles and skills during their professional training, which will teach them to observe human rights while on duty.


The anticipated alterations are all achievable. Police in many foreign countries use this model to train their officers. Positive results are returned within a reasonable time. For example, The Polish police, just one decade after its modernisation, has become one of the most authoritative public institutions. Nowadays, it ranks third by the level of public trust, following the Church and the Army.


2. Alteration of the way the work of police departments and policemen is assessed.


The alteration of the way the work of police departments and their officers is assessed is an essential change needed for the reform to breed positive results.


The failures of the existing approaches to the assessment have long ago been recognised both by the public and police officers themselves, who are forced to act in the given framework. For example, rewards for the successful investigation of crimes push policemen towards the use of force and other illegal methods of obtaining confessions and testimonies. No doubt, the quantitative approach should be kept, although altered significantly; at the same time it should neither be considered as a way of providing the main indices nor directly influence the officers’ rewards.


The number of quantitative indices taken into account during assessment should be widened. For instance, one should take into consideration citizens’ complaints and suggestions, statistics of reaction to such petitions etc. The role of those quantitative indices which make policemen and police departments serve the interests of society should be increased.


The main index should be about public trust towards the police, which is calculated with the help of sociological methods. Similar approaches to the assessment are successfully employed by a number of foreign countries. Elaboration of the sociological approaches to measure public trust towards the police should be jointly conducted by representatives of the system of internal affairs, academia, sociological bodies and NGO experts.


In any case, an assessment of the police should take into account public opinion. It is reasonable to use different aspects of public opinion while assessing the work of different police departments (district police officers, patrol road police etc.) It is necessary to consider pubic opinion of the police’s work, first of all, because the main task of the police’s work is to ensure protection of the individual, his rights and freedoms, as it is specified in the law “On the Police”. That is why assessing the police without consideration of public needs does not correspond to this principle. Certainly, the public demands should be formulated with the consideration of expert opinion, which includes among others academics and representatives of NGOs.


One of the main directions of public participation in assessing the work of the police could be measures of public control arranged by citizens and civic organisations. The results of these public control actions should be taken into consideration during the internal assessment and could possibly become a part of such assessment.


Besides, it is very important to ensure that the new assessment system is actively used for sorting out the problem of financing different police departments.


3. Optimisation of the finance policy in the work of the system of internal affairs.


It is necessary to take measures toward a more efficient use of budget means at all levels of the system of internal affairs, especially at the level of districts. The main emphasis should be put onto:

-          Raising the salary of policemen to a decent level

-          Widening the responsibilities of the heads of units within the system of internal affairs, which concerns the distribution and redistribution of the money provided from federal, regional and municipal budgets as well as from extra-budgetary resources.


4. Optimisation of the human resources policy within the system of internal affairs.


Optimisation of the human resource policy within the system of internal affairs should start from elaboration of the principles and approaches which would allow professionals meeting the psychological and professional requirements, having a spotless reputation and recommendations to work in the police from trustworthy people and authoritative legal entities to be attracted to working for the police.


The recruitment procedures which are to be elaborated for the system of internal affairs, should ensure the primacy of competence and experience corresponding to the tasks of the police when recruiting citizens for any positions within the system.


The recruitment procedures should be based on objective and non-discriminatory criteria (after a due check of the candidates).


Apart from the competence and experience needed, one should possess the following personal qualities to qualify for recruitment: common sense, openness, maturity, a sense of justice, communicative skills, and if necessary – managerial and leadership skills. Besides, the officers should be well aware of the social and cultural problems of the corresponding regions, and relations between people.


Besides, recruitment should ensure adequate representation of people from different layers and groups within society, for example of both genders, from ethnic minorities etc., so that the police is a reflection of the society it serves.


5. Further transparency in the work of the police and by this increase of public trust.


A lack of transparency in the work of police has to a large extent resulted in very dangerous and cruel practices within the police system. That is why it seems extremely important to pay special attention to the creation of transparency of procedures and of publicly sensitive information within the elaboration of the reform strategy. For example:

l  Society must have the right to know main the budget costs of financing the police and of the remuneration level of officers of all ranks.

l  All accounting information relating to the police at all levels should become more transparent. It should be delivered to the public in an understandable form, so that citizens could make their own conclusions about the work of police.

l  It is necessary to take measures to ensure the physical transparency of the police units and accessibility of those police officers who have direct contacts with the public.

l  It is necessary to install signposts and notices in the streets of Russian cities and towns which would inform citizens where the nearest police units are located and what the easiest way to them are. It is worth mentioning that the situation with the road police is much better, where informing drivers about the local road police units can be considered practical and understandable.

l  It is necessary to assess and change the whole layout of the police premises, so that they become more transparent. The premises where investigations and operational actions take place, should become entirely open and most of the procedures of investigative and operation units should be conducted with a wide access of colleagues, senior officers and controlling bodies.

l  The public should have access to all administrative regulations produced in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

l  It is necessary to develop CCTV surveillance over the work of the police inside official premises so as to prevent policemen and citizens from mutual complaints and opportunities to commit crimes from either side.


6. Elaboration and launch of administrative regulations for interactions between the police and citizens


In line with the administrative reform currently undertaken in Russia, all state agencies must adopt administrative regulations for interactions with citizens, which would describe the procedures of the services they provide. Unfortunately, many of the necessary regulations are still not developed. For example, it is necessary to develop administrative regulations which describe:

-         The procedure of the services the police should provide to detainees and their relatives.

-         How the police are meant to file complaints, petitions and other request at directorates, departments and units of internal affairs.

-         The particularities of operations conducted by the police outside official premises: searches, checks of documents, cordons, ensuring the security of mass actions, the suppression of unlawful actions etc.

-         How the transportation, conveyance and other movements of citizens to and from the police premises is to be carried out. 

-         The procedure of services the police has to provide to victims and witnesses, with special attention to its work with juvenile victims and witnesses.

How the police is meant to work with minor offenders.

[1] Elaborated at the expert meeting which gathered representatives of the regional non-profit organisation Person and Law (Yoshkar-Ola), Public Verdict Foundation (Moscow), Amnesty International (Moscow), Krasnoyarsk human rights committee, Perm centre for civic education, Perm centre against violence and Komi human rights commission Memorial (Syktyvkar).

[2] Check, for example, the findings of the all-Russian survey of public opinion Russians about the police: assessment, emotion, attitude, conducted by VTsIOM (All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre on May 30-31, 2009:

[3] A detailed report on the findings of the survey can be found at the PVF’ site following the link -


Public Verdict Foundation

16/1 Khokhlovsky pereulok

Moscow 109028 Russia

Tel/fax: +7-495-916-1199

Rights in Russia,
23 Nov 2009, 01:53