ROAR: Personnel purges and examinations loom for Russian police

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The Russian Interior Ministry is toughening its internal control of the police and reviewing the personnel selection system, but observers do not expect quick results.

After a series of violent incidents involving policemen, heads of regional bodies will have to control officers who have access to weapons. Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev said all regional police chiefs “will bear a personal responsibility for all accidents involving their subordinates, including traffic accidents, the illegal use of weapons and others.” Nurgaliev also urged regional police chiefs to toughen control over the issues of storing and using weapons.

The new measures are in response to the tragic events involving police officers in recent months. In Tyva, Senior Lieutenant Ayab Pavlov, who worked in the economic crime department, was drunk when traffic police officers detained him. After they put him into their car to bring him to a medical station, Pavlov shot dead one officer and wounded the other. He then killed himself.

The incident followed another similar tragedy in Omsk where a policeman shot dead his girlfriend out of jealousy, a taxi driver and, much like in Tyva, killed himself.

In a separate incident in Tyva, a road police officer stopped a car driven by a 17-year-old high school student who was suspected to be drunk. According to police, the student refused to leave the car and allegedly proceeded to produce an item that the officer thought was a firearm. The policeman fired in response and wounded the student and his girlfriend in the passenger seat. The high school student later died, while the girl remains in intensive care.

Following the incidents, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered Nurgaliev to dismiss the interior minister of the Siberian Republic of Tyva. The personal responsibility of police chiefs for actions of their subordinates is necessary, believes Valery Gribakin, head of the Interior Ministry’s Office for Information, Regional Contacts and Public Relations.

“Such incidents do not happen suddenly,” Gribakin told Izvestia daily. Those working with a policeman and his seniors, as a rule, “see that something is happening to their colleague,” he said. “If the service is well-organized, then necessary measures must be taken in advance,” he added.

Observers explained a quick reaction of the authorities to the incident in Tyva by a series of similar cases, including a tragedy that shook the country in April. Then Moscow district police chief Denis Yevsyukov killed two people and wounded seven in a supermarket.

Now the campaign “on personnel purges in the police is gathering strength,” Vedomosti daily said. The paper noted that the Tyva police chief has become the third among high-ranking police officials who have been dismissed.

Moscow’s police chief Vladimir Pronin was fired because of the Yevsyukov case, while Viktor Sosyura, the head of the republic of Buryatia’s police, has been suspended after being accused of smuggling.

After the Tyva story, there were rumors that Nurgaliev himself may be fired too, Pavel Salin of the Center for Political Conjuncture said. However, the head of state “prefers the personnel rotation at a lower level,” the analyst added.

The dismissals of high-ranking officials have so far been “unique cases,” Vedomosti daily wrote. “And reeducating personnel is a more difficult and long thing,” the paper said. “It is impossible to fire all policemen, and one cannot find new ones who are psychologically healthy, who can shoot and know traffic rules, the paper said, adding that the police are understaffed currently.

During a recent examination in the Moscow Region, 40% of traffic police staff failed to demonstrate their knowledge of traffic laws, the paper said. They will not be deprived of their driving licenses, but will not be able to drive police cars for some time, the paper added. “It is curious whether weapons are taken away from those [officers] who don’t know how to handle guns?” the paper asked.

Analysts note that the incidents involving police officers have become too frequent in Russia. However, with all these events regional police chiefs are trying to distract the public’s attention from real problems, commentator Olga Mefodyeva wrote on website.

Explaining the problems by the fact that many unprepared people came to work in police during the 1990s stresses only one and not the most important cause of what is happening, the analyst said. This helps “the Interior Ministry to preserve the current situation without taking any serious measures,” she added.

It seems that the situation with Yevsyukov should have provoked “arguments of public figures, experts, deputies and officials about how he could become the district police chief,” Mefodyeva said.

Another question is “what is being changed at the Interior Ministry to prevent such situations?” she said. “It is necessary to evoke in society intolerant attitudes toward police’s arbitrariness, to create an infrastructure of public control over the law enforcement agencies and to explain to citizens their rights and means of defense,” Mefodyeva said.

However, there is no public discussion, “which should be a source of pressure on the authorities,” she added. In this situation, “it is strange to demand cardinal changes of the Russian leadership,” she said.

After the Yevsyukov case the Interior Ministry promised to seriously toughen control over selecting candidates for positions in the police, website said. “The candidates will be hired only after a close study of their biographies and conversations with psychologists,” the website said.

“Complete examinations of the psychological state of those already working in the police were also promised,” the website said. “Now we should understand why these examinations have not brought any result,” the website added.

Sergey Borisov, RT