Mr Medvedev also presented state decorations to Interior Ministry personnel, in particular awarding the Hero of Russia Star to the widows of two officers killed while carrying out missions to eliminate armed underground groups in the North Caucasus. The President also decorated a number of Interior Ministry personnel with the Order of Courage.
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Speech at expanded meeting of Interior Ministry Board
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
The ministry has changed over these last years. Reform of the entire Interior Ministry system was one of our national policy priorities, especially last year. Reform of the police force has been completed and other Interior Ministry departments have also undergone reform. You all took part in this work and know very well that this was not reform for reform’s sake, and even less was it just some change of name, but involved real and substantial transformation of the Ministry’s entire life and work.
I think the biggest result so far is that deep-reaching and substantial organisational transformation has begun. Opinions on these transformations vary. You live in an open world and see and hear the various views expressed. Some think the system has indeed changed, and others think there has been little or no change. Whatever the case, the transformation process clearly is underway, and I have a positive overall assessment of what we have done last year and over the recent period in general.
We now have the conditions, including the legislative framework, that we require in order to protect our citizens’ rights and freedoms more effectively, fight crime, and maintain public law and order. This is the main thing. The Interior Ministry overall and the police as a new organisational body have a good solid legal foundation for their operation now. I think our Interior Ministry has never had such a good legal foundation, perhaps not since the tsarist era, at any rate.
I want to stress here at this board meeting that this work will continue. Of course we must be realistic in assessing the changes taking place, and the Interior Ministry and the police force must continue working to protect people’s safety, fight crime, in short, carry out all of the duties that are the Ministry’s responsibility.
Last year, we optimised the Ministry’s staff numbers and gave it a new organisational structure.
We have to analyse all of the work done so far. No organisation is ever perfect, but at the same time, we also need to give things time and let the organisational changes settle in and demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses, and watch out for any problems that might crop up too. Whatever the case, the authorities will make improvements quite simply because these are the kinds of matters that are to be addressed without delay. You cannot take an organisation and simply shake it inside out, but have to analyse its pluses and minuses first. This is true of the Interior Ministry in equal measure.
We have substantially raised wages and pensions. I think this is a big event in the Ministry’s life, and we all hope of course to see the Ministry’s personnel respond in kind with good, hard, and conscientious work.
The Ministry’s personnel have all undergone certification that made it possible to weed out those quite simply unfit for service for various reasons (sometimes very clear and objective reasons), or who have tarnished the servicemen's honour, as the saying goes. This process gave us a clearer picture of the Ministry’s human resources potential.
Let me take this opportunity to say that I think the Ministry has excellent human resources potential. All that is required is to properly improve these resources and be bolder about promoting genuine well-trained professionals, regardless of their age. This will bring the human resources pool up to the measure of the complex tasks before the Ministry today.
The Ministry, with its new organisational structure and internal bodies, must operate as a single coordinated body, calmly and thoroughly. There is no place in the Ministry’s and the police force’s work for hysterics and personal PR. You all know this very well, of course.
“You must react to all investigations the media conducts, all journalists’ investigations, even if they sometimes have an exaggerated or overly emotional tone that can get irritating at times. But the fact remains that they often bring to light outrageous cases that the public brings to their attention. You cannot close your eyes to this, even if such reports are not always professional or do not give proper criminal law definition to this or that action.”
We all realise that the transformation process is not yet complete, even if the main stage is now behind us. But we can speak of a new quality standard in the Ministry only when its work measures up fully to our society’s hopes and demands. I think this is obvious for everyone.
Let me say a few words about the tasks ahead. First, of course, is fighting crime. The figures vary, and their interpretations vary too. There are some indicators that suggest change for the better, and others that point to problems.
I expect the Minister will highlight in detail the various problems and propose solutions in his report. Let me just say that crime statistics are a complicated thing, but overall, in 2011, according to the information at my disposal, there was an increase in the number of crimes committed in public places, an almost 15-percent increase in the number of thefts, an 8-percent increase in the number of cases of grievous bodily harm, and a 4-percent increase in the number of murders. Draw your own conclusions.
Next, we should do everything necessary to ensure that the regional and local police departments work effectively. Local police stations are the first point of contact with the public. It is there that people go with their problems and misfortunes, and they must be sure that they will find understanding and qualified primary assistance at the very least. The police has the vital task now of winning public confidence in the new force. Propaganda campaigns alone cannot have any real effect. You all know that only professional work, conscientious performance of your duties, and attentive and well-intentioned treatment of people will win their trust.
The police have a hard job no matter where in the world, and the same is true of Russia, of course, which has immense problems of its own. But the police force’s paramount duty is above all to help people in all situations with conflict potential and not wriggle away or turn their backs, even if the matter in question is not the law enforcement agencies’ affair. If people are in need of help the police have a duty to come to their aid. If the police force really does do this, really does respond quickly and reliably to all incoming signals, then I am sure that our public will see and appreciate its work.
This is very important in order to build mutual understanding. We therefore have to bolster human resources at the local level, especially in the criminal investigations, local police, and police patrol services. Competently organised patrols and professional work by the duty services and investigators in tracking down criminal groups and investigating crimes are the best means of bringing down the number of crimes committed in public places. And it is these crimes that generally get the most attention from the public.
Building up these services is a task for the Ministry’s senior officers. There are various possible approaches, but one possible method would be to shift the personnel balance in field officers’ favour and away from the management staff. The management staff was streamlined during the reforms, but the numbers still remain quite high. I am not suggesting that the entire management side of the Ministry should undergo staff cuts, but an effort must be made to strike the right balance between the management personnel and the people at the lower levels who are actually out on the streets and directly involved in fighting crime and protecting public order.
Fighting corruption remains another of our top priorities. There are various areas for efforts here. I want to mention just one, which has come in for a fair share of attention lately. This is the situation in the housing and utilities sector, where misappropriations and embezzlements have reached epidemic proportions in some cases and, unfortunately, are seriously destabilising the overall situation. Action must be taken too in all cases of extortion and bribery, no matter who is involved. I demand from the Ministry to be more active in this work and not get into a fluster if problems come up. You have your position – act as you think fit and without looking at the political bodies.
As I said, much indeed still needs to be done to develop cooperation between the police and the public. The public councils set up last year to work with the Interior Ministry bodies are helping to solve this problem. This is good. This cooperation is to grow stronger. As far as fighting corruption is concerned, you will have to work more closely with civil society organisations and the media.
You must react to all investigations the media conducts, all journalists’ investigations, even if they sometimes have an exaggerated or overly emotional tone that can get irritating at times. But the fact remains that they often bring to light outrageous cases that the public brings to their attention. You cannot close your eyes to this, even if such reports are not always professional or do not give proper criminal law definition to this or that action.
“This year will be rich in various political events, including the presidential election. The election period is always a time of hard work for the Interior Ministry <…> The police must react immediately to any complaints coming in from the public, from voters in this case, and do everything in their power to prevent violations of the electoral rights that have been the subject of much discussion lately.”
Prevention and timely suppression of extremist acts are another priority. We live in a country with a very complex makeup, perhaps the most complex country one could imagine, a federation with many different ethnic groups and religions, and the world’s biggest territory. The police force has the special responsibility of preserving peace and harmony in our society.
Sad though it is, we have no shortage of people who would foment interethnic hatred for the sake of their own political or personal aims. They are capable of using any issue as a pretext, including law enforcement mistakes. There have been plenty of examples. This was the case a year ago, for example, when the law enforcement officials’ failure to act was the catalyst for mass unrest. We cannot allow such situations and cannot allow such flames to flare up. They are a danger for our country’s existence, and we therefore must act resolutely to prevent any attempt to play the ethnic card.
This year will be rich in various political events, including the presidential election. The election period is always a time of hard work for the Interior Ministry, as for all of the other law enforcement agencies. Let me just stress in this respect that the police must react immediately to any complaints coming in from the public, from voters in this case, and do everything in their power to prevent violations of the electoral rights that have been the subject of much discussion lately.
Colleagues, the world is changing. It has become completely global, and this creates new problems. You are all professionals. Many of you have been in the service for decades. You know that in the past, it took a lot of complex organisation and preparation to provoke public problems, but today problems can arise very fast with the help of modern technology. We therefore should pay attention too, to crime in the information space, crime of all various types. All countries are working on this now.
There are cases of corruption and embezzlement using ‘electronic money’ and the possibilities the Internet offers. You find not just financial scams online, but also drug dealers and other types of crime. All of this requires our attention. Obviously, traditional work methods are not effective in this area. We are to look at establishing departments dedicated to these new problems and specialised in identifying and solving technologically sophisticated crime. Such services are needed not just in the central headquarters but also in the regions.
This will require the purchase of top-class equipment. Let me address the Minister here and say that we will not spare any expense when it comes to this work. Qualified personnel are also essential of course. All Ministry personnel, including the bosses, should be aware of and informed about these issues, not from the printed updates that come round sometimes several hours later, but directly from the Internet. Everyone has to have a computer on their desk and know how to use it, because if they do not, the police will lose the battle against crime. I want to hear what is being done in this area and what your next steps will be.
There are many other areas of work too, but I hope that the Minister will speak about them in more detail.
I propose that we now begin work.