The acting law “On the police” is neglected by everyone including police officers themselves.

President Dmitry Medvedev met with top functionaries of the Interior Ministry and his Administration in Gorki near Moscow. The future law "On the police" was discussed. Work on the law started off earlier this year, within the framework of the Interior Ministry reorganization made necessary by inadequacy of the police force recognized by the human rights community and national leadership.

The Interior Ministry already briefed the president once on the concept of the future law which it promised would be ready by December 1. Yesterday, however, Medvedev said that there was neither a draft law in whatever state of readiness nor any ideas on how to make it different from the acting legislation. (Adopted in 1991, the current law “On the police” is endlessly corrected and amended.)

By and large, the necessity of drafting the law anew baffles most observers and Interior Ministry servicemen as such. Indeed, nobody has ever castigated the acting legislation. The impression is that the so called siloviki must have decided that drafting a new law (an undertaking quite routine and free of any particular political risks) will be the least troublesome way to carry out the order “to do something” about inadequacy of the police. All other measures – even simple ones like staff shuffles – are fraught with turf wars between political groups and factions, each determined to protect what it deems its own.

Opening the meeting yesterday, Medvedev said that the time was not exactly running out yet but he himself was under the impression that implementation of his order regarding the police had been put on a back burner. The president recalled the steering committee set up by the Interior Ministry that included “academics, experts, and representatives of public organizations” and called it something of a disappointment. “I trust that you do not expect me to agree with you on absolutely everything, and neither do I expect anything like that from you,” said Medvedev. “Anyway, that’s what we are here for – for a discourse.” The president then proceeded to mention a couple of ideas which he thought ought to be included in the future law and which apparently were missing from it at that time.

“Considering that approval by general public should be one of the primary criteria of efficiency of the police, I’d say that the Interior Ministry ought to be doing better in terms of reporting to society. The way I see it, the Interior Ministry is doing so in quite a pro forma manner nowadays,” said Medvedev. The president said that people on the police force needed legal training and that the future law ought to be explicit and precise on the subject of their rights and duties.

Concept of the future law the Interior Ministry presented in mid-June must have disappointed the president more profoundly than he let on. Matter of fact, it was not even a concept as such. Rather, it was a condensed rendition of the four chapters of the future legislation dealing with the purpose of the police, principles of performance, list of duties, and regulations pertaining use of force, weapons, and special technical means. The Interior Ministry leadership announced then that the future law was going to be maximum comprehensive.

As it happens, practically everything said to be included in the future law may be found in the acting law “On the police”. Moreover, the acting legislation is actually more precise on Interior Ministry’s purposes, duties, and principles than what may be expected from the future law judging by what the president was told.

The problem with this law, however, is that nobody bothers to abide by it and this neglect is taken for granted. Paradoxical as it might appear, but police officers themselves break the law “On the police” in their daily routine. Why do the upper echelons of the Interior Ministry think that police officers will do any better with the new law? This is a question without an answer.