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Police Brutality & Police Reform in Russia and the CIS - Book Reviews (5)

Fond “Obshchestvennii verdict”, Reforma militsiia: otsenki i ozhidaniia grazhdan: resultaty sotsiologicheskikh issledovanii i kommentarii ekspertov [Police Reform: Public Evaluation and Expectations: the results of sociological research and expert commentaries]

Moscow, Fond “Obshchestvennii verdict”, 2010, 100 pages
Annette Robertson
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Fond “Obshchestvennii verdict”, Reforma militsiia: otsenki i ozhidaniia grazhdan: resultaty sotsiologicheskikh issledovanii i kommentarii ekspertov [Police Reform: Public Evaluation and Expectations: the results of sociological research and expert commentaries], Moscow, Fond “Obshchestvennii verdict”, 2010, 100 pages

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Pays :

Russia

Champs de recherche :

Sociology
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Pipss.org is grateful to Shaun Long who edited this review

Texte intégral

1This 100-page report from the ‘Public Verdict’ Foundation details and analyzes research on public attitudes towards police reform and public experiences and expectations of the police. Given that the report was published in 2010 (based on surveys conducted in December 2007 and December 2008), it provides a very good basis for gaining a public perspective on the background to the most recent wave of police reform in Russia, which culminated in the introduction of the new Law on the Police in March 2011.

2The research on which the report is based was conducted by Public Verdict, an independent umbrella organisation set up in 2004 to offer legal advice to victims of law-enforcement personnel human rights’ abuses, and the Levada Centre, one of Russia’s leading polling agencies. The research aimed more specifically to explore public attitudes to the quality of police work; how informed the public are about the work of the police and its various constituent departments; public expectations of police work, and what questions the public had about police reform.

3The report is divided into several chapters, including a foreword by the Foundation’s Director, Natalia Taubina, and an illuminating chapter written by Asmik Novikova on public opinion (argued itself to be ‘hidden from the public’) and the role it should play in a democracy as a means for the public to participate in every aspect of society, including any reform process. Indeed, a key argument made is that reforms have stalled at least partly because the public is not a participant in the planning and development process, through a failure on the part of the government to consult with them using surveys.

4There are two main substantive sections; the first covering public attitudes towards police reform (the first dedicated survey conducted on this topic in Russia) and the second on how informed the Russian public are about the activities of the law enforcement agencies. A final section is devoted to police reform as assessed by a group of expert commentators (including leading academics from various fields and members of NGOs) who were interviewed individually for this purpose. The interviews partly focus on the new regulations introduced in January 2010 (MVD Directive No. 25, dated 19th January 2011) for evaluating police performance – which now requires the canvassing of public opinion.

5Individual topics covered in relation to public attitudes towards the police include: contact with the police and their response to such contact; sources of information about the police; public evaluation of police activity; what needs to be done to improve the work of the police; police attitudes to the public (according to the public); the police’s ability to cope with its main tasks; whether ordinary members of the public can rely upon their rights being defended and problems solved by the police; attitudes towards police activity at the local level; reasons for poor police performance; attitudes towards the need for reform; the aims of police reform; public attitudes towards the involvement of independent experts in the development of the police reform programme; police accountability to the public; and public involvement in police work.

6The section on how informed the public are about the activities of law enforcement agencies opens out the investigation beyond the police force to include questions about the Prosecutors’ Office, the Courts, The FSB, the MVD and special police divisions, such as the Traffic Police (GIBDD). Issues covered include members of the public having to defend their own rights; which agencies had violated their rights (not surprisingly the police top the table); which organisations were approached to protect citizens’ rights; and how informed the public are about which organisations to approach in certain situations. Respondents were also asked whether they feared the police; whether they were satisfied with their work; whether they had had contact with the local police; and whether they had heard of the Investigative Committee, which has a police oversight function (only 28% had), and of other organisations that existed to defend citizens’ rights (only 36% had).

7This is a comprehensive report which contains not just the statistical results, but a commentary on them in relation to the main themes addressed. It will be of interest to students and scholars in the related disciplines of sociology, criminology, and political science, with an interest in human rights and police reform in Russia. The survey results paint an interesting and informative picture of public opinion on the police, which is critically discussed in relation to what this may mean for police reform more generally. The interviews with experts – which are cited verbatim – provide a fascinating insight into how several key commentators view the issue of police reform, as well as the use of public opinion surveys in the development of government policy and practice. By offering different perspectives on these issues, they also serve as a warning against adopting an uncritical view of seemingly progressive reforms, for example the introduction of performance evaluation for the police, which incorporates public opinion, appears in many respects a positive step, but as some of the experts point out this could be incredibly costly and time-consuming, and risks not working if adopted in a blanket fashion; instead the focus, it is argued, should be on those departments that most directly come into contact with the public, that is of which the public are most likely to have experience. More generally, the report offers an insight into the practice and use of social research, and includes a critical discussion of the value of survey data in the political process, as well as a methodological discussion about survey design and implementation.

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Référence électronique

Annette Robertson, « Fond “Obshchestvennii verdict”, Reforma militsiia: otsenki i ozhidaniia grazhdan: resultaty sotsiologicheskikh issledovanii i kommentarii ekspertov [Police Reform: Public Evaluation and Expectations: the results of sociological research and expert commentaries]  », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [En ligne], Issue 13 | 2012, mis en ligne le 24 novembre 2012, consulté le 30 octobre 2014. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/3910

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Annette Robertson

Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland

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