HomeLibraryMemorandum of the Working Group of Human Rights Organizations on the Progress of Police Reform

Memorandum of the Working Group of Human Rights Organizations on the Progress of Police Reform

October 18, 2010 19:10

At the start of 2010 the NGO Working Group on Police Reform developed a Plan for Reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. On 19 March 2010 this Plan was presented to a joint meeting of the Working Group, the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, and the Civic Chamber's Commission for Public Oversight of the Activities and Reform of Law Enforcement and the Justice System.   The Plan's basic concepts were developed using the experience of similar reforms in a number of European countries. In April and May 2010 public discussions of the Plan were organized in 13 Russian regions in which hundreds of law enforcement officials, journalists, and representatives of political parties and NGOs took part.   However, the authorities have not put forward their own plan for police reform. This leads us to conclude with much concern that the process of reforming the Ministry of Internal Affairs is unlikely to go beyond the drafting and adoption of a new police bill. No information relating to the work on any other regulations or legislation, or the preparation of other reform initiatives, is available to the public.   No new law on the police can exhaustively set out all steps necessary for reform. It will be impossible in practice to transform the police into a professional institution that acts in the interest of the citizens, ensuring public order and public safety and fighting crime, unless a number of broad-ranging and well thought-out measures are drafted, adopted and implemented.   We believe that:

1. any action taken should aim to increase the transparency and public accountability of the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a whole, and of the police in particular, while strengthening public participation in police work and improving police governance, the preparation of personnel, educational and professional training systems, and thoroughly transforming the system of evaluating police work;

2. legislative changes, however important, comprise only one element of the reform process;

3. the authorities must present their plan to reform the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the public before any new legislation is drafted or adopted.

  We have consistently shown our support for the initiatives of our country's leadership whenever these coincide with our positions. We have expressed our concern whenever new initiatives have conflicted with our view of the reform process. This is precisely what is happening today. We remain advocates of the views we have put forward in our Plan for Reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We believe it is important to draw attention to our key proposals.  

General principles    

The police force is part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A precondition for reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is that there must be a comprehensive and interconnected reform of all the Ministry's departments. But the police force is the law enforcement institution "closest" to the public, therefore reform of the police is a task that is paramount. However, key implications of the fact that the police force is integrated into the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other security services cannot be ignored. The police force itself is affected by the working practices, regulatory standards and coordination of tasks of various agencies and departments within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This must be borne in mind if the reform is to have any practical impact. 

1.Effective reform is not possible in the absence of an officially adopted plan of reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that has the approval of public opinion. Such an official plan must define:

2. the basic principles of the work of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, including the police;

3. the place of the police force in the system of law enforcement agencies;

4.the structure (future model) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs as a whole and of the police force within it;

5. phases and deadlines of the reform process;

6. initial appointment of police personnel (involving a performance review of current police officers in line with new standards; recruitment of new officers, etc.), staffing levels in line with international standards;

7. the legal status of investigative bodies, expert institutions, the armed forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, educational institutions of the Ministry that are not part of the police as such, the elimination of unnecessary functions;

8. an implementation mechanism for statutory social guarantees for police personnel;

9. funding of the reform.

  The Plan adopted by the Working Group stipulates that a system for improving all legislation relating to the Ministry of Internal Affairs must be devised before any details of specific legislation are worked out and adopted.   Lawmaking in the area of internal affairs and police must be guided by the principles that 1) legislation must constitute a coherent system and that 2) secondary legislation must be minimized.  

The new police force and its place within the Ministry of Internal Affairs  

The police as an independent agency within the Ministry of Internal Affairs  

The police force must be transformed into an independent agency within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This will codify an already existing situation and make it possible to ensure and to develop the autonomy of the police by handing over control of the police to the police leadership, instead of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

  Implementation of constitutional requirements  

The police reform has to be based on the requirements of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which regards law enforcement as one of the issues under joint jurisdiction of the federal authorities of the Russian Federation and the authorities of the subjects of the Russian Federation. In accordance with Article 72 of the Constitution issues that are under the joint jurisdiction of the Federation and the subjects of the Russian Federation include the protection of human and civil rights and liberties, the protection of minority rights, the safeguarding of the rule of law, law and order, public security, and administrative and procedural law.   As stipulated in Article 132 of the Constitution (according to which local self-government bodies are responsible for ensuring public order) the basic units of the police force at local level (city districts, sub-districts, etc.) must be the precinct beat police officers. At the same time, it is necessary to develop mechanisms for public participation - including through the representative bodies of local self-government - in the appointment of these local police officers, in the oversight of their activities and in their accountability.  

A new police ideology  

The ideology of Russia's new police force must be guided by the idea that crime is interdisciplinary by nature. Crime reflects the state of the social environment and is an integral part of society. Eradication of crime is an unrealistic task. What is required is managing the level of crime and tackling its root causes and reasons for its continuation, rather than just tackling the lawbreakers. Such an understanding of crime presumes that it is not just the police force, but all of society, that is responsible for the crime in society, since the causes of crime are social. Minimizing crime therefore presumes cooperation between the police and society.   To implement this approach in practice will require a reasonable degree of local autonomy for the police and cooperation with a variety of local bodies. Managing the level of crime is a challenge that will demand joint efforts by various representatives of local communities: citizens, local authorities, business, police, and so on.   In this kind of approach to police work, the tasks that assume the greatest importance are those related to the influence of those factors that give rise to crime. These tasks can only be effectively accomplished through cooperation between state and civil society bodies.  

Cooperation between various subjects as a principle of local police work  

Effective police work at the local level is only possible if specific local conditions (the crime situation, priorities of preventative work, the demands of local inhabitants, and so on) are taken into account. In order to properly reflect specific local conditions in the planning and implementation of police work, continuous cooperation between the police and local authorities, as well as local civil society groups and citizens, is necessary. This approach is de facto already being implemented in a number of regions, and the current reform process makes it possible to study practices adopted in these regions, to identify successes and disseminate them to the rest of the country and enshrine them in legislation.  

Interaction between the police and society  

The reform must be enshrined in law and guaranteed in practice through citizens' participation in setting the goals and objectives of police work, the formation of priorities for police activities and further evaluation of the results. Interaction between police and citizens should be based on the following principles:

1. consolidation of efforts and concerted action to address specific tasks in the sphere of security and maintenance of law and order at the local level;

2. public accountability for the quality of law enforcement and social services provided by the police to the public;

3. accessibility and transparency of the legal and administrative bases on which the police operate;

4. development and implementation mechanisms for public participation in crime prevention and the improvement of public safety;

5. protecting the rights and lawful interests of citizens.

  Effective implementation of the principles outlined is possible where there are effective mechanisms of public oversight. In particular, the system of police accountability to local authorities, regional legislative assemblies and civic assemblies (for precinct police) should include the possibility of a vote of no confidence in individual officials, the making of recommendations for appointments at the lower and middle levels, as well as implementing other forms of response on staffing and organizational decisions.  

Interaction of police with civil society  

Priorities for cooperation between the police and civil society are:

1. development of the institution of civilian oversight of police activities;

2. transparent and equal cooperation between police and NGOs engaged in improving the security of citizens;

3. the organization and implementation of a public review of regulations in terms of their contribution to protecting the rights, freedoms and lawful interests of citizens;

4. improvement of education and training of police officers, with the participation of NGOs, including curriculum development, review of teaching and other materials, provision of support to teaching staff of the educational institutions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and in the teaching of individual courses;

5. detection and prevention of violations by police officers;

6. improved protection of the rights of police officers.

  In order to achieve effective cooperation between the police and civil society institutions it is necessary to provide for the joint development and adoption of a Plan for the Interaction of Police and Civil Society as a normative framework, reflecting the goals, tasks, priorities and forms of possible cooperation, as well as the conditions for securing it.   Civilian oversight over the police must be enshrined in legislation, containing an open list of forms of oversight by society and allowing further development, strengthening and improvement of this important institution.

  Ensuring the rule of law and human rights

  In order to ensure the rule of law and improving human rights guarantees in police work, it is necessary to create a special body within the police force to monitor compliance with the law and human rights protection. This body would have the power to monitor and conduct internal investigations into police officers and other personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.   To avoid conflicts of interest, the role of monitoring legal compliance of Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel should be removed from the Ministry's Internal Security Service. Possible options for the structural organization of a special body to monitor compliance with the rule of law and human rights are: (1) a dedicated body within the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation; (2) the appointment of commissioners on human rights protection in the work of the police, appointed by legislative bodies; (3) a Specialized Independent Police Complaints Commission in each subject of the Russian Federation; (4) the creation of an Ombudsman for Human Rights within the police force.   In the Ministry of Interior permanent mobile teams should be established to monitor compliance with human and civil rights and freedoms. Members of these teams could include, along with staff of relevant departments, experts of the training institutions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, independent lawyers and NGO representatives.   The possibility to conduct independent public or journalistic investigations into police activities should be enshrined in law and ensured in practice.  

Evaluation of Police Work  

An interdisciplinary approach to understanding crime should be reflected in the system of evaluation, since the range of specific tasks set before the police is changing, and the police must work in correspondence with the new approach. Key criteria include:

1. The quality and frequency of interaction with other public services;

2. The quality and frequency of interaction with citizens;

3. The ability of the police to take local priorities into account in their activities.

4. The quality of this aspect of police work and the implementation of corresponding tasks;

5. The frequency and quality of the contacts with the police initiated by citizens and others.

Assessment of police work is a continuous activity, which is part of police management.   It is necessary to divide the notion of assessment into a process of assessment, and the information on which this assessment is made. Information may be obtained in various ways. All this information of varied status and background is collected and analyzed in the process of assessing police work.   The process of making assessments is monopolized by the body that governs the police or the body authorized to analyze the data. The process of gathering information should be as decentralized as possible. In practice, this means that the database upon which the assessment is founded includes information obtained in various ways and of varying status:

1. Crime statistics;

2. Public opinion polls;

3. Results of research into public satisfaction with the police;

4. Results of surveys of victims;

5. Results of surveys of representatives of other public bodies that work with the police at the local level;

6. The results of monitoring by official bodies;

7. Results of public oversight;

8. Reports of the Human Rights Ombudsman;

9. Statistics of complaints brought to the police, the breakdown of these complaints, and so on.

  The collection and analysis of this information is necessary in order to have a full, balanced and realistic picture of what is happening in the police. In addition, on the basis of such information, conclusions are drawn about the following:

1. The levels of crime

2. The quality of actions taken by the police;

3. The quality of police interaction with other agencies and government bodies;

4. The quality of interaction with citizens, who are "core" participants in the work of law enforcement;

5. The quality of interaction with NGOs and other independent associations of citizens.

  The process of forming and making assessments of police work should be transparent. The principle of transparency should extend to all reports that relate to police work (reports by the police force itself - from local to top bodies), reports and records of the Human Rights Ombudsman, and the results of public opinion research (both those conducted by the police, and those independent of the police).   The principle of transparency applies also to the process of developing techniques and tools to gather information on which an assessment will later be based.   In assessing the police, information from various sources and of various status (data from public opinion polls, the results of questioning victims, statistics from prosecutorial oversight bodies, police statistics, court statistics, NGOs' reports, and others) should be used. Information should be correlated with work priorities, the expectations of citizens, the legal requirements, and so on.   The public must be involved in the process of collecting information and in public oversight of police work (for example, members of the public may be invited take part in regular, simple surveys of victims and others who turn to the police, with a view to assessing the quality of their treatment and their satisfaction with the assistance they received).   _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________    The Working Group (Coalition) of Human Rights Organizations on Cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Promotion of Reform - the Working Group on Police Reform - was established in the autumn of 2008 as a voluntary association of 14 human rights organizations. The goal of the Working Group is to promote police reform.