Police seek partial disclosure of psychiatric patients’ files to prevent violent crimes – report

Moscow Police officers © Ramil Sitdikov
The Russian Interior Ministry is seeking to alter existing healthcare laws to allow law enforcers to access information about potentially dangerous people with mental illnesses, claiming that this knowledge could prevent many crimes and save many lives.

Representatives of Russia’s Interior Ministry first made the proposal at a government session in February, but have yet to receive a reply, Life.ru news website reported, citing police sources. This week, the Interior Ministry addressed the Health Ministry in a letter asking for consideration of their request to be expedited.

As of today, our proposal has not even been looked into, and this prevents us from continuing the work on the administrative regulation of problem issues. Regional law enforcers report that the heads of medical organizations refuse to provide information on persons who suffer from mental illnesses and addictions that could pose a threat to other citizens,” the letter reads.

According to the police, the number of potentially violent mental patients in Russia is relatively small, but these people often commit the most heinous crimes.

READ MORE: Russian senator suggests testing mental health of candidates in elections

According to the Federal Medical Psychiatry Research Center, there are about 70,000 mentally ill people across the country whose potential behavior could pose a dangerous risk. Of those, 50,000 are being monitored by medics through a network of dispensaries. In 2015, Russian courts issued about 25,000 orders of compulsory psychiatric treatment, usually to people who had already committed crimes. Specialists at the center say that mentally ill people commit about one percent of all crimes in Russia, including up to 12 percent of all murders.

However, various experts polled by Life.ru said that the Interior Ministry’s initiative had many faults, the main drawback being that police officers lack the special knowledge and skills required to interact with mentally ill people and would not be able to distinguish between behavior that is dangerous and simply unusual. The second major problem is that Russia has no unified database on psychiatric patients and, thus, it is not clear who would track them if they changed addresses.

READ MORE: Candidates in elections must prove their sanity – MPs

In 2015, Lower House MP Vadim Solovyov of the Communist Party drafted a bill that would have made ordering the compulsory hospitalization of violent mentally ill people easier and created a single national database for psychiatry patients, but this draft was rejected by both the Ministries of Interior and Healthcare. A Russian citizen can currently be committed to a mental asylum only at their own request, the request of an official guardian, or by a court order. However, police have a legal right to temporarily detain people that demonstrate aggressive behavior towards others or those who attempt suicide.