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Police Reform (re: Ryzhkov JRL 2011-131)

Subject: Re: RYZHKOV JRL 2011-#131 [re police reform]
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2011
From: Greg Smith <sfpalladin@aol.com>

In the ten years of the Climate of Trust project, a cohort of American police officers had the opportunity to look at the Russian Militsia at the grass roots level in different regions over a sustained period. Some of the observations gleaned from the experience relate to Professor Ryzhkov's comments.

Notwithstanding the sad history of vertical power structures established during the Soviet period, one SFPD captain saw advantages in a national civil police. He pointed out that there are about 30,000 separate police departments in the United States ranging from the 30,000 officer NYPD, to one officer village departments. Quality varies, as does training and standards. Would complete decentralization be a solution for the problems plaguing the MVD? In America it has sometimes led to civil rights violations such as in the American South in the early 1960's. Patronage and corruption in US counties with elected sheriffs is a common theme in the American narrative.

Would the events in the Sverdlovsk Region have turned out differently if there had been a separate, independent Sagra Village Police Department? To my mind it's doubtful.

A retired navy captain examined the system of MVD universities, where officers receive an undergraduate education as well as professional preparation. He pronounced it to n be on par with the US Naval Academy. Quite a compliment coming from him! American police academies are about 5 months in duration. While many offices have bachelors and advanced degrees, only 14% of agencies require a BA/BS degree. In this respect, the Russian system looks attractive. However, one weakness in many of our opinions is the division between commissioned officers and enlisted personnel. As best as we could determine, their sergeants have far less discretionary decision making authority than do journeymen patrol officers here. This system seems to arise from the old Soviet Army practice of not having a professional NCO class, as is the case in most Western forces. It is probably cheaper than having better trained frontline personnel but it is terribly inefficient. This is especially true when we consider that the low enlisted pay is a primary cause of corruption.

As to the name change, it is only symbolic, but sometimes symbolic things are important. Abandoning the title of "Militia" with its connotations of a rag-tag part-time force and identifying with the proud concept of "Police" will send a signal that the times are (hopefully) changing.

Two thoughts on closing. First, Russia will probably be best served by a middle road of current and western police practices and, perhaps more in importantly, reform cannot be done on the cheap. Unless the Russian Federation is prepared to invest fiscally in reform, it might have well labor along with the existing, dysfunctional structures.


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