Minister Toughens Oversight For Police

Facing widespread mistrust over corruption and violence in its ranks, the Interior Ministry will now hold officials personally responsible for police leadership appointments, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said Tuesday.

The ministry also announced that candidates for police positions would be screened with lie detectors.

But analysts predicted that the measures would fall far short of solving rampant corruption among the country’s police and were merely an attempt to soothe misgivings after an officer’s shooting spree earlier this year.

Nurgaliyev announced that those appointing senior police officers would be personally responsible for their decisions. “We need a system that safeguards the reliable recruitment for our units of suitable young people to serve the fatherland,” he told a conference with senior police officials, the ministry said in a statement on its web site.

He also suggested that the plan was a result of the case of police major Denis Yevsyukov, who killed three people in a shooting rampage in Moscow in April.

The fact that the current recruitment and promotion system was plagued by people unwilling to introduce changes “was confirmed by the tragic events in April of this year in southern Moscow,” Nurgaliyev was quoted as saying by Interfax.

The comments were not carried in the ministry’s statement.

President Dmitry Medvedev fired powerful Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin after the shooting amid reports that Yevsyukov had been appointed thanks to his ties to senior Moscow police officials.

Opinion polls consistently show the police force among the country’s least trusted institutions, and police officers nationwide are routinely indicted for corruption and violent crimes.

Nurgaliyev told Tuesday’s conference that “our main task is to return trust, respect and acceptance, to ensure the support from society for the work of the police.”

The Interior Ministry’s press service said personal responsibility would lie with those who give references for leadership appointments, Interfax reported.

But anti-corruption experts were mostly scathing about the measures.

Georgy Satarov, a corruption expert with the Indem think tank, called them “stupid.”

While the measures would prove insignificant in real life, they would probably raise the risk of blackmailing inside the ministry, he said. “The ministry needs two things: either an outside oversight body or a complete ­closure followed by restructuring,” Satarov told The Moscow Times.

Yelena Panfilova, head of the Russian branch of international corruption watchdog Transparency International, agreed that changes were needed.

“Controlling staff at the Interior Ministry is a problem that needs systematization,” she said.

Nurgaliyev’s remarks showed that he felt pressure to demonstrate results, but he is just “fixing one problem without addressing the system,” she said.

“The minister is in desperate need to change something quickly, as there are demands from society and the Kremlin,” she told The Moscow Times.

The ministry’s human resources chief, Vladimir Kikot, told the same conference that lie detectors would be used to screen aspiring police officers and that all officers permitted to carry firearms would have to undergo yearly psychological tests.

He added that every candidate who had been rejected by the police for reasons such as alcoholism, drug abuse or ties to criminal groups would be blacklisted. “We already have a list of more than 6,000 people,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Anatoly Kucherena, head of the Public Chamber’s committee on law enforcement oversight and judicial reform, said lie detectors were no solution to the problem. “I do not believe that you can sort out the human psyche with technology,” he told Interfax.

Kikot also said fake diplomas were widespread among members of the police force.

“We did a review of all our staff … and discovered more than 100 fake diplomas or documents with evidence of falsification every month,” he was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass.

Since taking office more than a year ago, Medvedev has made fighting corruption a central theme of his policies and has initiated a host of measures.

The Interior Ministry has initiated other measures to boost police popularity: Earlier this year, it implemented a behavior code that forbade officers from engaging in a range of unseemly deeds — from cursing and smoking publicly to adultery.

On Monday, Medvedev met with Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to discuss measures introduced to reduce the frequency of unannounced inspections of small and medium-size businesses.