MPs propose granting police exceptional rights – report

RIA Novosti / Abdula Magomedov
A group of Russian lawmakers has drafted a bill broadening police powers and giving them the “presumption of trust.” Among other things, this would allow them to break into cars and homes without warrants and open gunfire at mass gatherings of people.

The news was reported on Thursday by popular business daily Kommersant, which referred to one of the main sponsors of the bill, deputy head of the State Duma Committee for Security Aleksandr Khinshteyn (United Russia). Khinshteyn told reporters that the bill was prepared a year ago, but its drafting was delayed because of lengthy consultations with the presidential administration and the government.

The most important feature of the document is the declaration of the new approach of the state and society to the police officers and their work.

The state guarantees police officers who perform their professional duties a presumption of trust and support,” the document reads. According to explanations attached to the draft its main purpose is to boost the authority of the Interior Ministry.

Another innovation is the suggestion not to prosecute police officers for any action committed while on duty if they strictly follow the internal regulations. According to the authors of the draft this move would balance the existing norm according to which when a police officer commits a crime on duty the court considers this an aggravating condition.

The bill also gives the police more powers in the use of firearms – currently Russian police are not allowed to open fire on women or use their guns in places of mass gatherings of people. The proposed amendments would narrow the banned targets to women “with visible pregnancy features” and allow opening fire in crowded places when it is necessary for prevention of a hostage-taking or a terrorist attack.

If passed, the bill would also allow the police to search people and their vehicles on simple suspicion of carrying or transporting illegal items instead of the current norm that orders the police to present the grounds behind such suspicion. Law enforcers would also receive the right to break into homes when pursuing criminals on a hot trail, without a court warrant on a suspect in the crime.

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Russia launched a major police reform in 2010 under Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency. The changes included renaming of the police force from ‘militsia’ (militia) used from Soviet times to ‘politsia’ (police), the optimization of functions and structure of the Interior Ministry and a major reshuffle of its staff that was cut by almost half: from 19,900 to 10,000 officials.

In February 2011, Medvedev signed the updated Law on Police, which broadened the powers of law enforcers, but also included chapters on openness and transparency, and on providing public trust and support from the citizens. It also ordered a universal re-assessment of all police staff, which was held between May and August 2011.