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Russian Opposition Movement Urges Police Reforms

Many Russians are concerned about corruption in the police

Many Russians are concerned about corruption in the police

MOSCOW -- The Russian opposition Solidarity movement has made proposals to the Interior Ministry in an effort to reform the country's police force, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The Interior Ministry controls Russia's police and various state security forces. The reform program unveiled on May 18 is included in a 15-page pamphlet that Solidarity says will be sent to Russian leaders.

"The key task of our proposal is to reestablish the public's trust in law-enforcement organs," co-author Ilya Yashin told reporters. "In essence [the pamphlet] says the current structure of the [Interior Ministry] must be dissolved and the law enforcement system constituted from scratch."

The reforms include recommendations that Solidarity said should be implemented over the next four years.

Perhaps most importantly the pamphlet recommends cutting the number of police officers in half.

Retired police Major General Vladimir Ovchinsky told RFE/RL that such a measure is premature.

"Although police numbers in our country are higher than in other countries, here the number of murders per 100,000 of the population is 15 times higher than in countries of the EU and three times higher than in the United States," he said.

Ovchinsky says that while there are positive elements in Solidarity's proposals, he opposes calls for big cuts in the number of police.

The pamphlet also calls for renaming the "militsia," the longtime name for Russian police. The term "militsia" comes from "militia," and it came into use to refer to the police during the Bolshevik Revolution.

The name "militsia" now has a negative connotation due to the widespread public perception of police corruption. Solidarity wants the "militsia" renamed "politsia."

President Dmitry Medvedev has recently initiated legislation to reform the law enforcement bodies. Numerous opinion polls indicate that the Russian public has little trust in the police.