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Cops swear off corruption - at least while the focus is on the force

Russian Policeman Near Police Van, With Face Turned Away from CameraThe police are renamed, revamped and now apparently unbribable. But those in the know are suspicious of this new found confidence and say the difference, if discernable at all, goes only skin deep.

A taboo on bribes swept through the force on March 1 new reforms took effect, RBC Daily reported. And the new era is expected to last at least as long as screenings and probes put every officer under the lens.

But the critics are out in force and the debate seems to be less a case of 'is this temporary?' so much as 'is it there at all?'.

The rot runs deep

"I'm not really sure that corruption has actually stopped. There was a poll which showed that only 7 per cent of police officers like their job...37 are waiting for the pay package to increase in 2012, which means if it doesn't happen they will just resign," Mikhail Pashkin, chairman of the Moscow Police Union, told The Moscow News.

"Seven per cent is a terrible rate," he said. "Corruption would become much less if police officers had satisfactory pay packages and social insurance, that would halt corruption."

Fox in charge of the chicken coop

The more optimistic do say there has been at least a temporary end to back hand bonuses but warn that it will be short-lived.

"The assessment could be more frightening than purging the ranks," warns Alexei Mukhin, general director of the Centre of Political Information. "There's not going to be a change because those who are vetting the subordinates are the same chiefs who have been taking money from them," he told RBC.

As long as the ministry of internal affairs is left to organise itself there can be no change, adds Mikhail Vinogradov, psychologist and criminologist, RBC reported.

Beating bribes

"Through all my time in service I have never lived on one salary before," traffic cop Anatoly told RBC. "Now I have to rely on my wife, my 23,000 all goes on paying off creditors," he said.

Pashkin distrusts testimonies of this kind. "I don't believe it when people say corruption is getting better or worse because there is no way to ascertain whether those who pass judgment are telling the truth," he said by telephone.

The only way to do get a straight answer, he says, "would be for [head of presidential administration Sergei] Naryshkin to examine the 354 generals and colonels in the police publicly and transparently, with lie detector test results broadcast, then people could offer some judgment. Now they just see that the police do what the government wants them to," he said.

Questionable reforms

For now at least the public must content themselves with the reforms enshrined in law.

Officers can no longer torture, humiliate or hit you with a baton at peaceful demonstrations. Many changes called for by the public, however, including wearing photo ID nametags, have been ignored.

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