In an interview to an Izvestia journalist, Minister of the Interior Police Lieutenant General Vladimir Kolokoltsev of Russia shared his views on the priority objectives of his activities as the new minister, as well as further improvement of the performance of the Internal Affairs bodies.
- When you were offered the office of Minister of the Interior, did you have any doubts as to whether to accept the offer or not?
- Doubt is not the right word for that. I thoroughly considered the offer - that is true. Yet it was not about doubts for I have never walked in other people's shadow since my time as a teenager. If the work has to be done and I am instructed to do it, then I will do it by all means.
- What do you believe is currently the major police issue?
- The major challenge is of course people's trust. No matter what good progress we might make and what useful reforms we might conduct, just any crime or human rights violation on the part of policemen will send our achievements down the drain. People who regard police as an enforcement body in any case start getting afraid of them, which leads to the loss of trust. No professional authority will be efficient without public trust proper.
- How can one regain the people's trust?
- First of all, what we need is an absolute discipline of the personnel. It implies unquestioned and thorough observance of all laws when communicating with, detaining or interrogating citizens or carrying out investigative activities. If we demand that citizens observe law then we should be impeccable ourselves. This is an indicator of professionalism, too. Therefore, enhancing professional skills and the quality of police personnel is our priority objective.
- Are you going to further reform the police?
The measures taken on the state scale, legislation changes and staff allowance increase just establish conditions for the police to become an authority we want them to be - modern, professional and honest. Then the system needs "fine tuning" if we want to optimize the work of the new mechanism at all levels and in all subdivisions.
- You worked in regions for a long time. Do you think that the system requires structural departmental changes, particularly decentralization? Do we need municipal police to handle minor offences?
- We tried to apply decentralization in the 1990s yet it failed. Municipal militia - that is the way they were called then - failed despite substantial funds had been steered into the project.
I am confident that any head of the regional Internal Affairs bodies should have both desire and resources to achieve the final service and operational performance targets. Our end customers are people. When they feel that something has changed to the better, then we will have attained our goal. Any reforms of the current services will be fruitless unless the head has aspirations, facilities and abilities to improve the work quality.
- Do you think that it is worth while establishing individual MVD subdivisions for combating ethnic crime?
- We have such subdivisions in Moscow because it implies its own peculiarities and a handful of details have to be accounted for. For instance, there are many newcomers some of whom arrive in the capital to join the criminal world. In each region, this issue should be addressed individually. Therefore, it is premature to speak about the necessity of such subdivisions nationwide.
- Do you plan to restore Departments for Organized Crime Control which were dissolved as being of no use? We do not need to combat mafia any more, do we?
- In our huge country, each region has its own geographical, social and economic features which impact the criminal situation in general. A certain region might require a certain subdivision, such as, for example, subdivisions for combating armed bands and organized crime in the North Caucasus where we send our special employees to from all regions. There are also quiet regions in terms of organized crime. Consequently, it makes no sense setting up similar subdivisions there. Why establish something just for the sake of establishing something? When setting up or expanding something, we need to take the local situation into consideration.
- The performance indicators-oriented system has been canceled several times yet actually everything has remained as it was before. How do you think we should estimate the police efficiency?
- I actively support the idea of cancelling the performance indicators-oriented system which results in policemen making up non-existent crimes or splitting a big crime into several smaller ones just to obtain good performance indicators. For almost three years, I have been purging it from Moscow-based subdivisions yet some cases occurred. Someone drew up a protocol for some records while his colleague went on playing with performance figures. I have always been pursuing one policy: personnel and operational resources ought to be referred to those areas which are of vital importance to the entire population. Do you know what the most relevant area for the entire population of the region is? It is grave and particularly grave crimes which can affect any citizen. To put it bluntly, they do not care about our statistics. The important thing is that there are no burglaries in the house, no robberies in the street and no pranksters outside. The main evaluation criterion is the public trust and individual safety of each citizen.
- Where do you intend to recruit people who will perform their professional duties in good faith?
- People who joined the militia in the Soviet time had grown up with the film "Born By Revolution" rather than with the "Dom-2" (translator's note: a low-quality reality show). These are completely different generations. Previously, people wanted to work with the militia. For this reason, we should further enhance and develop the same psychological and personnel services - yet within the framework of the material and human resources available. I welcome every innovation in this field, be it tests or polygraphs etc.
The system will be developing far more dynamically when there is competition among those willing to join the police. When this competition is high and the personnel departments have an opportunity to pick out best ones out of the best ones, then we will see positive outcome of the MVD reform.
- Is there any way to change the situation?
- At least, we have made a real step towards attracting people who want to join us. There still exist romantic people - our work is very interesting indeed. I used to be a romantic thing myself and I still like this job. It is very difficult and might seem not particularly attractive yet it is really very interesting. You should give an employee such a motivation that he or she does not get disappointed. And it seems to me that we are moving in the right direction there - the mass media are changing their attitude towards law enforcement agencies and begin to more objectively assess us.
- Your first "trial by fire" in Moscow was Manezhnaya Square when you came forward to the crowd. Were you afraid that you could be assailed with addle eggs like Nikita Mikhalkov?
- My work is to correctly assess the situation and take the only right decision - at that time it was talking to the crowd. I have kept my promise I gave then - the murderers have been found and punished, along with the employees who had let them go.
- In Moscow, every week you visited different police departments - always on the spot. Once you even had to put out the fire after which everybody believed that it was no showing off. As Minister, will you also continue your sudden visits? Where will you start from?
- Anything can call for an examination - for example, committing a much-publicized crime. In this case, it is important to estimate what is going on in the department and how the work is organized at the moment when the subordinates do not expect to see their chief. Any chief should have a clear idea that either he brings discipline to the personnel and continue his service or he might easily lose his job. Of course, first of all we will be addressing the feedback from the population on unlawful acts of employees of the Internal Affairs bodies.
- What are your employees in for: a staff purge, or you will be working with the existing personnel?
- I will be working with decent professional people and getting rid of those who have stained their reputation or are not able to professionally carry out their duties.
(Published in Izvestia dated May 24, 2012, # 93/28600)
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