Introduction by Anne Le Huérou
Pipss.org is grateful to Kevin Roberts who edited this introduction.
1We are pleased to introduce you to the latest issue of The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies dedicated to police reform in Russia and the CIS.
2Policing issues and police reform in CIS countries, especially in the case of Russia, have emerged as a growing matter of governmental concern, public discussion, as well as a subject of civil society scrutiny these past few years. Cases of abuse and violence have been widely publicized and denounced to the point that these became a key argument for supporters of core law enforcement agency reforms.
3Undertaken in 2009, after the particularly striking episode of Mayor Evsyukov shooting at people in a Moscow supermarket, the process led to the preparation of a new Law on Police replacing the 1991 law and to the announcement of structural changes inside the MVD. Passed in March 2011, the law has been widely criticized by experts, the mass media, and civil society. A new scandal emerged following the case of a death in custody in Kazan in April 2012. This case led to further reforms that were subsequently declared a “failure” by the newly appointed Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev.
4While the Russian public space and civil society are often depicted as weak and restrained, many initiatives have developed in the past few years at different levels to reveal, denounce, confront or remedy police abuse and protect people’s rights. One might well be suspicious of the widespread and consisten nature of this criticism towards the police. For academia, this situation reflects the substantial need for knowledge on police institutions in the post-Soviet space.
- 1 See the « Introduction by Gilles Favarel-Garrigues », of issue 2, 2005 of The Journal of Power Inst (...)
5In 2005, Pipss.org dedicated its second issue to an overview of police transformation in the post-Soviet context. Some of the questions raised remain as acute now as they were then, though a number of other issues have now come into focus. These developments underscore the need for a new research agenda on police to be set up1.
6At that time, an important subject of public concern and academic interest related to the transformation of police missions to the more global context of post-communist state and society transformation. Thus the best methods to analyze the transformation of norms, institutions and professional practices were to be found in the challenge of combining security and democratization demands, as well as by the analysis of the career trajectories of top law enforcement officials.
7In 2012, the first results of a new approach to police research have come to light from a generation of scholars who managed to work independently, while this field had previously been dominated by the research departments at law enforcement agencies themselves. We are pleased to have the opportunity to gather in this issue representatives of this new research trend which consists of a more micro-oriented approach, focusing on interactions between the police and various social groups or addressing the police as a professional group in order to understand what are the professional practices and institutional challenges that are at stake when considering options for reforming police institutions. The systems used to evaluate police performance are constantly depicted as problematic, as previously noted in the 2005 issue of Pipss.org. Performance evaluation must be understood as a routine function that has a tremendous impact on the way the policing works (and, by extension, the judiciary) as well as on its societal perception.
8The issues outlined above are addressed in several articles in this issue, especially from our Russian colleagues Boris Gladarev and Ekaterina Khodzhaeva (see interview), who have contributed to the book « Police and Ethnic Migrants », which itself is reviewed in this issue. In her contribution, based on extensive participant observation, including the use of video recording, Perrine Poupin scrutinizes professional routines and the coercive street strategies of policemen in charge of public order in the case of a Moscow demonstration. A leading specialist on Russian law enforcement agencies, Mark Galeotti explains from a more public policy orientated point of view what is behind the Medvedev reform project, while Annette Robertson and Yulya Chistyakova review the diverse manifestations of police violence and subsequent denunciations by various players in the professional and the public space. In her contribution Natalya Taubina – director of the Public Verdict Foundation, one of the main Russian NGOs addressing the subject of police violence, – underlines the specific role of civil society activists and organizations. This has been transformed in recent years through the acquisition of professional tools and expertise, becoming sometimes a useful stimulus and sometimes a cumbersome whistleblower for the authorities. The articles published in our issue reflect the period of R. Nurgaliev’s rule as a minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, which is now questioned by the new team in charge. Interestingly enough, the institution itself now recognizes evaluating police performance as a key issue, and this is opening the field for future research.
9While the main focus of this issue is on the Russian case, we have also dedicated our attention to two more cases in the post-Soviet space which illustrates the diversity of institutional trajectories. Kyrgyzstan police reform presents an interesting example of coping with external assistance and scrutiny, thus posing the question of the circulation and importation of norms (Alexander Zelichenko). The Georgian experience of police reform, analyzed in this issue by Kornely Kakachia & Liam O’Shea, has become a model for radical reform for supporters in other post-Soviet countries. This case study should clearly deserve scholarly attention in terms of how to analyze state reform capacity, such as the ability to set, follow, and communicate a reform agenda that assesses the impact of the undergone reform. Recent developments in the case of violence against detainees involving law enforcement agents up to key police officials have reopened the floor for future research on the Georgian model.
10We hope that this issue will contribute to a need for knowledge in at least two directions: first the way post-Soviet institutions are reformed, including underlying factors, the main actors and the challenges they face; second, by giving access to new trends in police research especially in Russia, we aim to bring together scholars interested in comparative research on policing issues.
11Some of the contributions have derived from the research program “Understanding Violence in Russia: War, Institutions, Society” funded by the City of Paris as part of its Emergence(s) program and was conducted within the CERCEC (Centre d’Etudes des mondes russe, caucasien et centre européen). You may find more information, posts, announcements on the project site Understanding violence in Russia (http://russiaviolence.hypotheses.org).
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