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New name for Russia's police - and uncertainty in the ranks

Russian Policeman Near Police VanOn the first day of spring the long-debated police law comes into effect in Russia.

However, apart from a change of name, not much will change for the public.

Policemen, on the other hand, will face two months of uncertainty as not all of them will remain in the force, as it has been announced that number of police officers will be cut.

No immediate changes

For the public the only immediate effect of the law signed by President Dmitry Medvedev on Feb. 7 will be to come up with a new way to address policemen.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev had earlier suggested that "Sir Policeman" (Gospodin Politeisky) was used, but the public did not like the idea, and the minister encouraged them to come up with their own ways, RIA Novosti reported.

Meanwhile it has been suggested that the popular derogatory term for cops, "menty", could be replaced with the German word "polizei". Although this is a neutral expression in German, in Russia it has overtone of the occupying authorities following the Nazi invasion in 1941.

However they are popularly known, policemen will introduce themselves in the same manner as usual, by saying their rank and surname.

However, the old title, militsia, will still be seen on IDs, cars and badges until the end of the year.

The new uniform is yet to be unveiled, but it has been announced that police badges will have the officer's name, rank, and name of department on them.

From March, 1 only the look of metro policemen will change ­ they had to remove a sign on their back that says "Militsia". For now it will not be replaced with anything new.

Two months uncertainty

For the interior ministry employees the changes will be more profound.

As of today, officially all of them have been withdrawn from the staff pending aptitude and psychological tests. Only those who have passed by May 1 will be officially reinstated.

Nurgaliyev said highest-level officials will be appointed by the president. The overall number of employees should be cut by 20 per cent.

No one knows yet what departments will be called and whether the OMON riot police will be renamed.

Torture is banned

While there are no additional functions for the police, they will from now on be banned from torturing and humiliating the detained. They are also banned from hitting people with a baton at peaceful demonstrations, whether sanctioned or not.

The new rules will mean that policemen will have to tell detainees their rights to legal advice, a translator, and a chance to let their family know that they have been arrested. They will also be granted a right to silence.

The detained will have a right for one phone call, but this rule will not apply to those who are wanted by the law or escaped from prison.

More freedom

Policemen from now on will be allowed to enter private property without court orders if there is danger to the public. If the owners are not there, they will be notified within 24 hours by the prosecutor.

For solving tax crimes, police will be able to ask for information on personal accounts of the organisation and the businessman, but they will not be allowed to do it to prevent a crime.

Police work will be evaluated through public chambers that will include human rights activists, journalists and respected citizens.

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