Cleaning Up Dirty Police in Russia

Article excerpt

Byline: Owen Matthews

In the wake of last week's suicide bombings in Moscow, many -reform-minded Russians feared that the renewed emphasis on national security would bolster Vice President Vladimir Putin's strong-arm policies. Instead, the violence seems to be increasing pressure for reforming the system. Angry bloggers and newspaper commentators have blasted police for being "too busy with corruption --to do their job," as Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein wrote. President Dmitry Medvedev's Kremlin blog has also been inundated with posts complaining of police incompetence. "Instead of standing at the entrances to the metro with dogs and bomb detectors," wrote one angry commenter, "police are on the lookout for migrant workers or drunks with the aim of emptying their pockets."

The backlash against Russia's cops was brewing even before the deadly attacks. Popular resentment had been building for at least a year, thanks to a series of scandals including a supermarket shooting spree by a drunken officer; a YouTube appeal by a police major in southern Russia complaining of "pure banditry" among his colleagues; and press revelations of how paramilitary cops regularly blackmail, terrorize, and even kidnap businessmen for profit. A poll taken just before the bombings showed that 77 percent of Russians don't feel protected by the police and 81 percent consider them to be Aoutlaws. …