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More trust in Russian cops? Critics remain dubious

Riot Police Dragging SomeoneInterior minister Rashid Nurgaliyev claims Russia's police are enjoying more public trust ­ but not many appear to have faith in his figures.

From union bosses to political analysts, the upbeat message from the minister's end-of-year popularity poll has been routinely drummed down.
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Mikhail Pashkin, chairman of Moscow's Police Trade Union and an outspoken critic of Nurgaliyev, told The Moscow News: "People still don't trust them, the force is as it always was and no real progress has been made."

Polling prowess

Nurgaliyev has been quick to highlight a softening of public opinion, and told Rossiiskaya Gazeta things were getting better.

"This practice (taking opinion polls) has started already and goes on today. The interior ministry for several years did not conduct its own research into public opinion because the results would not always present an objective picture. Therefore we have signed contracts with independent sociological services, which carry out different surveys and questionnaires," he told the paper.

"It should be noted that for the first time, after 2010's year of reform within the interior ministry numerous public opinion polls have shown a positive trend in public attitude towards the work of the police. This is certainly not an occasion to report on successes, but it is evidence that we are on right track," he said.

But Carnegie centre analyst Nikolai Petrov was quick to pour cold water on fluffy images of the interior ministry soliciting public opinion.

"I find it slightly funny when a KGB guy talks about civilian control and zabout taking into account the attitudes of the population at large, and sociological polls to measure these attitudes," he told The Moscow News.

Progress not hard

Pashkin was even more abrasive.

"I don't really believe it, he didn't mention any figures, and said nothing about how this poll was carried out for them.

"It all was just vague generalities backed with nothing but his desire to show he was doing well and that the police, headed by him, had improved," scoffed Pashkin.

The fact that Nurgaliyiev was cagey about giving figures is itself suspicious, says Petrov. "He was pretty careful when answering the questions and didn't give any concrete figures.

"It looks like the level of trust is extremely low and there are no signs that it could become higher, after scandals like Kushshevskaya

"With trust being so low if there are any changes at all, including different polls or corrections to calculations then the difference could be considered essential growth. That's why, it strikes me, he didn't mention any figures at all," he said by telephone.

Examples not to follow

The force's track record is not good, says Pashkin, and bears the finger prints of political interference. "Society sees that the police more often than not just carry out government orders and don't solve real crimes," he said.

"How can the case of football fans and Svidorov improve public trust in the police? Or recent cases of Nemtsov and Khodorkovsky? People see that there is no law enforcement system and that anyone can be found guilty or innocent," he said by telephone.

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