President OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Good afternoon,
We have a lot of material here. This is because today, we will be summing up the results of the discussions on the draft Federal Law On the Police Force. The discussion took place as we agreed, we presented the document to the public, and it was published on the site www.zakonoproekt2010.ru on August 7, 2010.
The discussion generated 33,000 responses. If we take the responses that offer specific suggestions rather than simply emotional assessments, which of course were also to be expected and are perfectly natural, we have 20,000 concrete proposals on how to improve the draft law.
What this shows above all is that people are not indifferent to the future shape of our law enforcement system and how it will protect their rights and freedoms. This is the main conclusion. People are not indifferent to how it will fight corruption and ensure public order.
I note too that the draft law has been discussed in the Federation Council, the State Duma, and the Civic Chamber, and it has been the subject of serious discussion in the media and the internet. I personally addressed this matter too, holding several meetings with law enforcement representatives and members of the public in the Republic of Mari El and Stavropol Territory. Of course I also discussed this subject with various people who are not indifferent to the situation in the Interior Ministry.
All of the proposals and comments on the draft law have been analysed now and many of them have been included in the report prepared for this meeting. I think that this report should be published, taking into account the discussions that have taken place.
I want to draw particular attention to a number of sensitive issues. I say right now that this does not cover all of the sensitive issues raised and all of the proposals that should be taken into account. I am simply noting a few of the matters that sparked particularly active debate and some issues that I think are particularly topical.
First of all, the article giving the police the right of unimpeded entry to any premises requires our close attention. This provision has incited a lot of debate, perhaps partly simply out of misunderstanding, or the feeling that it is something completely new, though this is actually not the case.
In fact, this provision has existed for many years. The question is one of wording of course. But what we are talking about here are exceptional circumstances, often related to saving people or detaining criminals. This provision therefore is justified, but we do need to very clearly regulate the procedures for police officers’ entry to residential premises.
Other provisions requiring close attention are those concerning procedures for allowing the state authorities to use coercive measures, and this is an issue that our citizens raised repeatedly.
Second, our people want to see greater openness from the Interior Ministry and more possibilities for feedback. Everyone knows the 02 phone number [of the police throughout the country], but we also need a free phone number where anyone can report cases of police inaction, of the police not taking the measures they should, or violating the rights of the individuals.
I therefore instruct the Government and the Interior Ministry and Communications and Mass Media Ministry to examine the question of setting up a common call centre which people will be able to call for free from anywhere in the country. This should be an additional free service. I think this would help to strengthen discipline in the police force itself.
There have also been proposals to publish obligatory annual reports on the performance of regional Interior Ministry offices. This is also something normal and I think that as part of our drive to have more reporting in general this provision should also be included in the draft law.
Incidentally, a common telephone hotline that people can call to report on unlawful action by the state authorities and local authorities could also be established, and I will sign an instruction for the Government on this too.
Third, as many people said in their comments, we need to introduce individual identification badges for police officers with the last name and personal number. Conflicts often arise when police officers stop someone and ask to see their papers, and they respond by, sometimes politely, and sometimes in much more confrontational fashion, asking the officer to identify himself, but our police officers identify themselves as it suits them. There have been many eloquent clips on this subject in the internet.
I am not justifying anyone in this situation: neither citizens who break the law, nor rude police officers. But we need to introduce these badges so that people will see who they are dealing with and which unit he works in. This is the practice all around the world, after all. Of course, this is particularly important for road patrol and checkpoint officers, and for local district officers, who interact with the public the most.
Fourth, many people propose including in Article 5 of the draft law a provision obliging police officers to inform detained people of their rights. This is also the practice in many countries. On the one hand, this might seem like nothing more than a formality with no real result, but ultimately it has an entirely reasonable legal effect. In the USA this provision is called the Miranda Rights.
I think we could also introduce a rule of this sort, have our police officers explain citizens their rights when being detained. This will not cost the police officers anything, and at the same time it won’t harm our citizens to hear this information.
Fifth, the discussions on the site and in the Civic Chamber also raised the issue of having the police keep people who have filed requests and demands informed about the progress and outcome of the respective activities of the police officers. I draw the Interior Ministry executives’ attention to the need for clear procedures for providing this information. I think this is something absolutely normal.
But there is another matter too that has been a subject of debate (aside from the Miranda Rights), and this is the right to make a telephone call. This is something that has been discussed on many occasions. There are some minuses involved here in terms of organising questioning and preliminary investigation, and there is also the question of guaranteeing citizens’ rights and freedoms.
I want the Presidential Executive Office and the Interior Ministry to examine this matter together. This right already exists for minors. Of course we realise that such calls could be used to pass on information in the aim of covering up crimes committed.
But at the same time, other countries have found ways of dealing with all of these issues. One option could be to first check the phone numbers being called. Phone calls do not have to be made that very second, after all. Overall then, look into this matter and present your proposals to me. This right could be included in the law, but the actual procedures for its implementation could be set out in a bylaw or directly set out in the Law On the Police Force, if we are ready by that time.
Another very important subject is that of police officers’ sense of social standing and protection. I have discussed this on many occasions with our police officers and I can say that in many cases I was pleasantly surprised at their professionalism, at their knowledge and familiarity with their work, and at their uncompromising position on the need to rid the police force of chance people and keep hold of the backbone of competent and hardworking people. And so, social guarantees for the police are very important.
I mentioned already that we are drafting a separate law on this matter, and this work is going ahead without delay. The drafting work is starting right now, given that the law should take real effect starting in 2012, perhaps. And so, taking into account the transformations underway in the Interior Ministry and the transformations in the police force, I have decided that from January 1, 2012, police lieutenants’ wages will be at least 33,000 rubles [$1.1] a month. From there, of course, this figure will rise in accordance with promotions and pay rises for the number of years served by individual officers.
I have outlined just a few issues and will not continue this list, because, as I said, there are many proposals. Indeed, all of these tomes before us contain an article-by-article analysis of the draft law. They now need to be carefully analysed again and the substantial ideas among them will be taken into account, and in fact, a number of them have already been done so.
Of course, the final version of the draft law will be published on the site after I review it. It should highlight all of the changes made. Today, we will continue our discussions on the proposals for improving the law.
Finally, the last matter regarding the draft law itself, this law should not be taken as some kind of dogma. As we start to implement it in practice we will see whether further changes are needed, and we will make such changes. This is a law, but it is also a working document, and we can improve it.
Overall, I think that this first experience of putting the draft law On the Police Force to public discussion has been very positive and interesting. We should not be embarrassed by the fact that 99 percent of the comments were critical. What else could we expect? Did we imagine people would write to say thank you for thinking up the law on the police, and how happy it makes them?
Of course, people wrote to suggest amendments to particular articles, express their views, and sometimes simply vent their troubles and concerns. This is normal. This kind of work should continue therefore and we should take the same approach with other laws that have big public resonance and affect all of our citizens, like the law On the Police Force.
As for future proposals, they could perhaps be taken into account not right now, but a bit later, be incorporated into our future lawmaking work.
I want to stress the point I made at the start that this law On the Police Force must not be put on the backburner. We need to pass it rapidly because it is the basic document that will serve as the foundation for our reforms of the Interior Ministry and its regional organisations.
There is another issue that, although it is an internal matter, is nonetheless important, and this is the organisation of the Interior Ministry’s new structure. I want this new structure to be based on a combination of a new look for the ministry itself (through the formation of a common police system) and its units, different responsibilities for the ministry, and the needed degree of continuation.
In this respect there are a number of new ideas that we will discuss. I began looking at this issue a while ago with the minister, and he reported on a number of proposals. We will continue these discussions at today’s meeting. These are working matters that will be settled within the framework of a presidential executive order, or rather, two presidential orders.
Another matter that has generated considerable emotion and discussion is the draft law’s name and the name of the people who will be doing this work – the police. There are differing views on this matter and it is understandable that some people are sceptical.
Some people have the impression that we’ve simply decided to change the name from ‘militia’ to ‘police’ and thereby make a show of carrying out reform. But this is not the case, of course. The law’s aim is to create a more effective law enforcement system. The name is a secondary issue.
But the name also has significance. The police should be a modern and effective organisation as it is elsewhere in the world, in many developed countries, and all the more so as we already have this police too – there’s the police chief sitting right here with us.
The last point I want to make is on reforming the Interior Ministry. I will also sign a special instruction on drafting proposals setting out the procedures for informing individuals and legal entities on the results of examining their statements, declarations, and reports on committed crimes. This has been the subject of a lot of public discussion. People say that they turned to the police and got sent packing. And so we need to have procedures in place here.
On the matter of registering addresses from the public to the police, this is a separate matter that we should discuss. We will not make a final decision on this right now. There are various proposals here, including the idea of transferring responsibility for registering such addresses from the Interior Ministry to the Russian statistics services. Of course the police will be responsible for initially processing these addresses, but they would then be registered in a different service so as to relieve the Interior Ministry of the need to organise this whole registration system. But I have not reached a final conclusion on this matter yet.
Whatever the case, the system we have at the moment suffers from all of the chronic problems that I heard about back when I was studying law at university. In this respect little has changed. I will sign this instruction and we will work on it.
Another issue that I will simply mention briefly now is that we will examine today the matter of establishing an independent Investigative Committee. I have already made a decision and we plan to establish this committee through presidential executive order on the basis of the existing General Prosecutor’s Office Investigative Committee.
At the same time, I will send the relevant draft laws to the State Duma. The investigative bodies within the other federal agencies, including the Interior Ministry, will remain independent for now. The future could see other decisions, including transfer of powers for investigating most cases or all cases to the Investigative Committee. Time will tell what will be the best road to take and the main thing now is not to upset the existing balance.