President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
As we agreed, we are meeting for the second time now to discuss this draft law on the police force. We examined the law’s basic concept and main provisions on July 2. I instructed the Government and the Interior Ministry to prepare a new draft by December 1. They have already completed this work.
Today we need to see if this draft law is sufficiently ready for a public discussion on its provisions to begin, after which I can submit it to the State Duma, taking into account the proposals that our citizens will make, the expert community’s views, and of course, our own discussions.
I want to repeat once more what is self-evident, really. The police force is one of the most important institutions in our society, and we need to give its work a clear legal framework not just in order to protect our citizens’ rights and interests, but also to ensure normal working conditions for our police officers themselves. By clarifying the police force’s rights and obligations and relieving it of functions that should not be part of its duties we give it the conditions it needs to focus on its primary mission – enforcing law and order. The draft law must be a quality improvement on the current law on the police in this respect.
The first thing, which I have already noted, is that the law must contain detailed provisions ensuring public oversight of the Interior Ministry and its officials’ work. The draft law in its current draft contains these provisions. Let’s examine them carefully once again.
”By clarifying the police force’s rights and obligations and relieving it of functions that should not be part of its duties we give it the conditions it needs to focus on its primary mission – enforcing law and order.“
Second, the draft law must contain a clear and detailed list of the police force’s duties in order to clarify their powers and duties. This list needs to include the duties that Interior Ministry officials carry out in accordance with other legal acts. In other words, this law must contain a comprehensive list of all duties, and changes to this list — and I think this is a vital point to make – should be possible only by amending the law itself.
The police force should not have duties not included on the list in the law but arising from the provisions of other laws or bylaws. This approach guarantees proper legal order and also works in the interests of our own citizens, who need to have a clear idea of what the police force can and cannot do under the law. People should be able to take a look through just one law to get this information, and not have to plough through a whole stack of laws.
The third task is maximum clarification of the police force’s rights. We need to get rid of all wording that is unclear and ambiguous in content. Such wording creates legal loopholes that people then use to pursue their own interests. In other words, they enforce laws arbitrarily, without respecting the proper procedures, or violating other rules, and this impinges on citizens’ rights and freedoms.
Furthermore, we need to draft and approve legislative provisions setting out the procedures in accordance with which the police force carries out various coercive measures. This aspect provokes the biggest debate in society, and it must be very clearly and precisely regulated. The draft law as it is now regulates in quite some detail police powers to detain people and enter premises, and also details powers regarding use of weapons, special equipment, and physical force. These are exceptionally important provisions and this is the first time that they are legally regulated in this way. We have agreed that these provisions will be set out in separate chapters in the draft law.
Fourth, one of the things we have been discussing frequently of late, and one of the things that the Ministry itself has been paying a lot of attention to is the issue of police officers’ professional suitability, and this has been given particular emphasis in the draft law. Police officers’ personal qualities need to meet the very highest standards. This is clear to everyone today.
It is extremely important that people with drug or alcohol problems, and mentally unstable people have no chance of entering the Interior Ministry system. Each police officer will have the obligation of providing income declarations for themselves and their immediate family members, and property declarations.
We will also need to reflect on a system of exams for police officers testing their knowledge of laws, and thorough knowledge of the Constitution. This subject should also be separately regulated in the draft law.
Fifth, while clarifying the police force’s duties, we also need to relieve it of functions that should not be a part of its duties. This is a complicated issue because it is bound up in money, but it is very clear that a number of the functions currently performed by the police force could be carried out perfectly well by other state agencies.
”The law must contain detailed provisions ensuring public oversight of the Interior Ministry and its officials’ work.“
We have discussed these matters in the past, and today we will address them again. These functions will most likely be transferred to other state executive agencies. This is not to say that this will happen overnight. Some time could be required, and this time could be used to raise the necessary financial resources and put in place the organisational conditions. But whatever the case, this is something that we must carry out.
Finally, one other very important matter is that this draft law will very soon – hopefully tomorrow – be presented to the public. We will give the public enough time to discuss it — I propose that we set a period until mid-September, say – on a specially set up website – www.zakonoproekt2010.ru. Of course, discussions can take place in other media too, but this site will be a specially created separate resource for this discussion.
I want to note that this is a very important step. This is the first time we are submitting a draft law to such broad public discussion like this. This draft law concerns all of our citizens because we all have dealings with the police. We have other important agencies, other security and law enforcement agencies, but the police force is on the front line of this work with our citizens. If the experiment in discussing this draft law proves successful, and I hope it will be, we will use it in the future for discussing other laws of importance for our people and society.
Sometimes the texts of draft laws are published, usually on agencies’ websites, and this is followed by discussions in the professional community, but this is something a little different. We have never had a specially organised discussion with recommendations and rules. There were some attempts during the Soviet period, but they tended to be overly organised.
Everything is ready now to launch this process. An organising committee on the draft law’s preparation and the Interior Ministry’s expert council on lawmaking will be responsible for working with and processing the responses and proposals that come in. Of course, other expert communities can also take part in this work, along with other state agencies, the Presidential Executive Office, and everyone who wants to get involved.
I hope for a constructive discussion. This discussion should be not general in nature, but very specific, addressing specific sections, chapters, items and articles in the draft law and making proposals to improve the law, proposals on the wording the law should contain. We will study all of these proposals very carefully. This does not mean that all proposals will receive support. We need to preserve the draft law’s concept, but important clarifying provisions should be taken into account.
Once this discussion ends, we will analyse the comments posted on the website and publish a report on the results. This report could be the subject of further discussion, given that it will be a reflection of public opinion and a gauge of the public mood and people’s interest in the police force’s work. Finally, some proposals for which we are not yet financially and organisationally ready, but which seem reasonable to us, could be taken on board for use in the future, and this would be an absolutely natural development.
One final point I want to raise is something that is perhaps more of an image matter, but is nonetheless important. Since the October revolution, the police force in our country has been called the ‘militia’. This name emphasised that the police force had its roots in the people, had worker and peasant origins, as was usually said back then, implying that essentially, this was a people’s militia in uniform. But we need professionals, people who work effectively, honestly, and in well-organised fashion. I therefore think that the time has come to go back to the pre-revolutionary name and call our law enforcement officers the police force. I propose that we discuss this matter too. Now, let’s go through the items one by one.