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

Russian Police before the 2010-2011 Reform: A Police Officer’s Perspective

Boris Gladarev

Editor's notes is grateful to Anthony Zannino who edited this article.

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  • 1 This refers to the story of Captain Groshev’s conviction for publishing results of a survey of stud (...)

1On December 24, 2009 President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree “On measures to improve the work of Internal Affairs Authorities of the Russian Federation” that became the first step towards reforming the country’s police. This decision came amidst continuous negative media coverage of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ work throughout 2009, contributing to the deep public distrust of the police1. Media coverage and sociological studies alike have confirmed the inefficiency and corruption of the police as a state institution; these reports have inevitably influenced public opinion regarding police work in Russia resulting in the emergence of a public consensus on the necessity to reform the police. This article presents a brief overview of the sociological literature on the main themes of the public discussion of the Russian police over the last twenty years. It then examines the results of a study of police work in St. Petersburg and Kazan on the eve of President Medvedev’s 2010–2011 police reform.

  • 2 For example, the Institute of Internal Affairs–All-Russian Research Institute of Ministry of Intern (...)

2Since 1991, Russian scholars have published over a hundred works (journal articles, books, bulletins, monographs) concerning various aspects of police work. Several Russian research groups have initiated sociological studies of the police, but rarely in collaboration with one another; thus the “sociology of the Russian police” has been divided among various institutions, in an example of the discipline’s “institutional dividedness” in Russia. Notwithstanding occasional studies by unaffiliated sociologists from academic and scientific institutions, research on the police generally has been conducted by various sociological groups by request, on behalf of either (often international) human rights NGOs and donor organizations or experts representing think tanks within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) 2. Most of the published research has been thematically fragmented and relies primarily on quantitative studies; in-depth qualitative studies remain an exception.

3Of the various groups producing studies on the police, each has been guided by its own set of research interests. For example, Russia’s largest polling organizations (Levada Center, Demos Center, the Center for Independent Social Research, Iuriks) and human rights NGOs (Memorial, Citizen Watch, the Committee Against Torture, Public Verdict Foundation) have focused on gathering information on patterns of police interaction with the population, cases of civil rights violations by the police, sociological measurements of occupational risks, interaction among police officers, and public attitudes on the course of the police reform. By contrast, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been interested in media portrayals of the police and internal problems facing the police forces. Finally, academics tend to focus on corruption trends within the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the judicial system.

  • 3 In 2007, Captain Groshev, an instructor at the Tyumen Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (...)

4Most of these studies remain unpublished, and whenever the findings of a study on the police do get published, the researchers are at risk of being sued by the authorities. For example, after publishing his research on corruption among police cadets, Tyumen Law Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs professor Igor Groshev was fined 2 000 rubles by local authorities and required to admit that his publications were based on false evidence3.

  • 4 B. Gladarev, “Militsiia, ‘Etnicheskie men'shinstva’ i ksenofobiia: Rekonstruktsiia sotsiologichesko (...)

5Nonetheless, for over twenty years researchers have produced a substantial albeit thematically highly fragmented body of sociological texts on the Russian police. The following overview looks at the most significant works on this subject4. This includes a large array of analyses based on quantitative research collected by research institutions such as VTsIOM, Levada Center, and FOM regarding about citizens’ attitudes towards police: the level of public confidence in the police, citizens’ views on police effectiveness, and the willingness of citizens to assist law enforcement officers.

  • 5 See the following works on corruption in the police: N. Kablova, O. Khabibarakhmanov & P. Chikov, K (...)
  • 6 See the following works on police abuse of human rights: Y. Sinel'nikov, “Nasilie k zaderzhannym: R (...)
  • 7 See these works on the interaction of the police with certain groups of citizens: O. Shepeleva, “Pr (...)
  • 8 Studies related to the topic of reforming the MVD: O. Gryaznova,”Mesto pravookhranitel'nykh organov (...)
  • 9 See, for example: F. Gorodinets, “Professionalizm i pravovaia kul'tura sotrudnikov militsii”, in Or (...)
  • 10 On the interaction between police and civil society, see: B. Taylor, “Pravookhranitel'nye organy i (...)

6A large body of the research, usually initiated by NGOs, concerns police corruption and human rights violations56. A specialized area of the literature is dedicated to analysis of police interaction with specific groups: juveniles, drug addicts, and migrant workers7. A growing number of publications address judicial sector reform8 and police officers’ understanding of the law9. Smaller sets of publications have examined the media image of the “Russian policeman” and police interaction with NGOs. Other studies have investigated the prospects for public control over law enforcement agencies and the creation of “negotiating platforms” for constructive cooperation between the police and the public10.

  • 11 1) The project “Informal economic activities of law enforcement agencies in Russia: A Sociological (...)
  • 12 My experience of interviewing police officers, as well as of participant observation in the work of (...)

7To date, there have been significantly more quantitative studies of the Russian police than qualitative inquiries. Since 1991, only six such qualitative studies have been conducted in Russia, all of them by experts affiliated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and thus suffering from a methodological bias11. This relative lack can be explained by two factors. First, due to the closed nature of post-Soviet law-enforcement agencies—law enforcement officers tend to view people outside the institution as dangerous “strangers” (as per Simmel)—police personnel often distrust external experts12. Second, as a legacy of the Soviet authoritarian past, the Russian academic milieu is not accustomed to conducting ethnographic research.

  • 13 The project involved, from the Institute of Social Studies and Civic Initiatives in Kazan, O. Maksi (...)
  • 14 The main results of this study were published in the collective monograph Militsiia i etnicheskie m (...)

8The present article analyzes the findings of a rare qualitative study of the police conducted jointly by the Center for Independent Social Research (CISR) in St. Petersburg and the Institute of Social Studies and Civic Initiatives in Kazan13. Titled “Police Forces and Ethnic Minorities: The Practices of Interaction in Kazan and St Petersburg,” the project’s leaders conducted 22 in-depth interviews with police officers and 10 interviews with the expert community (senior GUVD officers, human rights activists, journalists) from 2006 to 2009. In addition to this, the research group logged over 170 hours observing the everyday work of patrol officer crews and district commissioners14.

9Given the abundance of the above-mentioned studies on various aspects of Russian law enforcement agencies, this project addresses the virtually unexplored topic of the informal rules determining the work of policemen, highlighting patterns of interaction between police officers and ethnic minority groups and, importantly, revealing police officers’ own understanding of their work dealing with minority groups.

Conditions of Service and Social Status of Ordinary Policemen in 2009

10My analysis examines the concerns presented by the staff of two divisions of the Public Security Police (PSM): the patrol service (Patrul’no-Postovaia Sluzhba – PPS) and the precinct service (“Uchastkovaia Sluzhba”). These are the Russian police departments with the most numerous personnel. Uniformed PSM employees, along with the GIBDD (State Inspectorate of Road Traffic Security), are the MVD departments with the most frequent and direct interaction with regular citizens; thus, public assessment of the work of the broader MVD depends on how PSM officers carry out their work at the local level.

11The term uchastkovyi” derives from “uchastok” (precinct) and denotes a space enclosed by the walls or other boundaries of a particular place or building, or by an arbitrary and imaginary line drawn around it (or “earth,” as the policemen themselves call it). The staffing of a precinct is assigned at the rate of one uchastkovyi inspector per 5,000–7,000 residents. According to the current laws, uchastkovyi functions include crime prevention, addressing citizens’ complaints, monitoring former inmates, and other similar daily functions.

12PPS as well as precinct service work is tied to its geographic area. Foot patrols and patrol cars ply a route, promptly responding to alarm calls to the dispatch service “02.” According to the “Charter of the Patrol Service,” the main tasks of the front-line division of PPS include maintaining law and order in the streets, on transportation facilities and other public places, and during mass events. PPS policemen are responsible for the security of citizens and their property, and in patrolling an area, the PPS should pay attention for any suspicious behavior so as to prevent possible violations and assist other police divisions, identifying and detaining suspects along the route or at checkpoints.

13Based on interviews and observations, police officer’s complaints can be categorized as addressing one of four main problems: low wages, insecure social benefits, under-resourced districts, and citizens’ growing distrust of the police as an institution.

14Nearly all police officers interviewed complained about low wages. In late 2009, a police serviceman in St. Petersburg earned on average 12,000–14,000 rubles (500 euros) a month, while a commanding officer’s monthly salary reached roughly 16,000–17,000 rubles (about 600 euros). In Kazan, regional police department budgets were lower, and therefore salaries were also lower: servicemen and sergeants earned 10,000 rubles a month, while junior officers earned 12,000–13,000 rubles. In addition to meager salaries, police officers complained about scant benefits. As one 25-year-old St. Petersburg policeman reported, “The first question is always of pay. I work 12–14 hours a day. I run the risk of health problems. I want to be compensated for that.”

15Many police officers complained that their pay is not sufficient to support a family. According to one 35-year-old St. Petersburg sergeant, “You know that most police officers have unstable marriages. Families break up. Wives do not want to endure the constant absence of their husbands away at work, along with the financial insecurity”.

  • 15 Until 2005, a police officer was entitled to free travel on public transport, paid the state only 5 (...)
  • 16 For examples refer to: A. Coffey, E. Eldefonso, and W. Harbinger, (Eds.), Human Relations: Law Enfo (...)

16Furthermore, most police personnel feel that the government has stripped them of social benefits, as their benefits package has been significantly reduced as a result of 2005 economic reforms15. In the words of one 21-year-old St. Petersburg policeman, “The state does not care about the police. We are paid on a residual basis, just enough to keep us from dying of hunger.” Given that the nature of the police work involves high personal risks and emotional and physical stress, social benefits are especially important to police personnel16.

17Our own observations found that the district police departments of Kazan and St. Petersburg rely on outdated and physically worn-out infrastructure. In 2007, some district officers in Kazan still used typewriters for preparing protocols, while most PPS crews still drove old UAZ vehicles inadequate for patrolling and apprehending road violators driving newer, more expensive vehicles. Tellingly, employees of district divisions were found to be willing to receive bribes in the form of office supplies such as printer paper.

18Finally, Russian police personnel are aware of the deep public distrust of their work that has been mounting since the 1990s. Russian media perpetuates a negative image of the police as a corrupt and ineffective institution, whose employees are concerned above all with personal gain rather than maintaining public order. The negative public stereotyping of the police as a professional group have contributed to the alienation of the police from society, resulting in the social and professional marginalization of many ordinary policemen.

19The empirical data collected during the 2006–2009 period in interviews, diaries of participant observation, and media materials contain further examples of the social stigmatization of policemen in Russian society. In interviews, police officers often relate painful personal experiences: “Of course, the attitude toward police these days… it is unpleasant. I’ve even tried commuting home out of uniform. There are times when you’re going [home in uniform still] and hear behind your back ‘rotten cop’. It’s disgusting!” recalls one 25-year-old St. Petersburg policeman. “We work like dogs,” says a 22-year-old policemen from Kazan: “ridiculous salary, no state benefits, the people don’t want to cooperate with us, and our bosses yell obscene abuse at us and still require high levels of work.”

The Rationale of Police Work

  • 17 Federal Law № 1026-1 “On the Police” on April 18, 1991.

20The Russian police force is the legal and organizational successor to the Soviet police. The MVD’s instructions, manuals, and procedures for interviews and observations are thus closely associated with the Soviet experience. Adopted prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union on August 18, 1991, the Russian law “On Police”17 with a few exceptions replicated the Soviet legislation regulating the activities and powers of law enforcement agencies.

The Legacy of Soviet Experience in the Work of Russian Police

21It is possible to identify three general characteristics of the post-Soviet police’s institutional functioning: first, the primacy of top-down orders and injunctions over the rule of law; second, the common use of punitive methods in regular police activity; third, the particular system of police performance evaluation (referred to as the “cane system”).

  • 18 See in: L. Gudkov, B. Dubin, A. Leonova, “Militseiskoe nasilie i problema ‘politseiskogo gosudarstv (...)

22The Soviet system of “legal nihilism”—in which orders from immediate supervisors have priority over the rule of law—stemmed from the theory of “socialist legality,” which in practice meant that Soviet jurists interpreted the norm of the law according to political requirements. During the Soviet period virtually any citizen could be the target of prosecution purely by decision of party leaders, as reflected in what was a popular saying about the police: “That you haven’t been jailed is not your personal accomplishment, but our shortcoming”18.

  • 19 Glass is police slang for disciplinary action normally expressed in the deprivation of a monthly (...)

23The study suggests that such an arbitrary perception of the rule of law is still widespread in Russia today. Order supersedes the law in part because the salaries, promotion, and benefits of police personnel are directly dependent on their immediate superiors, as a 38-year-old Kazan sergeant attests: “If you didn’t issue the necessary number of arrests during your shift, showed off at the planning meeting, or were spotted drunk on the job, you got a bad score (what is called in Russian “stakan”, a glass)”19. Not surprisingly, police personnel tend not to oppose their superiors’ orders even when they contradict the law: “Usually, privates and sergeants simply do not pay attention to particular [official] orders and laws. They lack legal knowledge or they believe that their superiors know better. Only in very rare cases is a [formal] written order issued”, according to a 45-year-old former police officer from St. Petersburg.

24The punitive and repressive nature of Russian police work is another persistent Soviet legacy. Despite the fact that the police forces are responsible for a variety of functions, including the civil registry (drivers’ licensing, firearms licensing, etc.), property protection and crime prevention (monitoring the behavior of individuals and institutions), and everyday law enforcement (protection of private property, providing assistance in emergency situations, etc.), the observation of daily routine work in St. Petersburg and Kazan reveals that policemen more than anything else are overwhelmingly engaged in punitive activities.

25One St. Petersburg lieutenant colonel justified the repressive nature of his work by referring to history: “We are, in fact, a punitive structure. That is, historically the police have worked as the state’s watchdog.” Police officers themselves admit that their work is mostly oriented toward executing repressive functions, primarily targeting the most vulnerable social groups, i.e., young people, migrants, and the homeless.

  • 20 G. Peters, The Politics of Bureaucracy New York, Routledge, 1990; J. Skolnick and J. Fyfe, Above th (...)

26The third institutional principle inherited from the Soviet past refers to a specific system of evaluating the performance of individual staff members and police units, commonly referred to by police personnel as the “cane system.” As in the Soviet period, police units today receive from the MVD a monthly work plan compiled along quantitative parameters, which includes quotas for prosecuting hooligans, illegal immigrants, and other types of criminals. In 2009, for example, one police district received a plan with quotas for 72 different types of potential crime. Failure on the part of a district as a whole to meet the quotas would mean that no individual employee from the district would receive a pay raise at the end of the quarter. Essentially, the Russian police force is evaluated on the basis of whether it is able to meet the quarterly plans, while no record is kept on the police’s achievements in crime prevention20. Thus, in the post-Soviet system, the police have their future work planned out without taking into consideration trends and analyses of past crimes.

27Observations of the professional activity of ordinary policemen “in the field” show that most of the work of a district officer cannot be reported within the existing accounting system, nor through the indicators used by the MVD. Although a district office is primarily concerned with crime prevention, rather than compiling statistics for administrative reports, due to the fact that crime prevention is not recorded statistically, an officer is credited only for recorded offenses.

28This police performance evaluation system has had serious social, legal, and criminal consequences. For police personnel, the focus on achieving planned targets has lead to formal reporting taking priority over fieldwork duties, with little incentive for officers to be concerned for ensuring public safety. Police officers increasingly are fabricating statistics, resorting to illegal methods (using false witnesses to a crime or false attending witnesses, falsifying reports and other documents, threats of violence) to bolster their own performance records. In turn, police authorities often prefer to turn a blind eye to such falsified reports in order to ensure the approval of the MVD leadership.

29It is important to note that this “cane system” of police performance evaluation is used by regional police officials throughout Russia, whether openly or covertly, as confirmed by our study of media reports on the issue of the “cane system” during 2006–2009. In St. Petersburg the “cane system” is not officially recognized at the GUVD level, but according to interviews with members of district police departments, it remains the main tool of departmental bureaucracy. By contrast, in Kazan, police officials consider falsified reports to be a normal part of the routine.

New “Post-Soviet” Principles in Police Work

30In addition to practices inherited from Soviet experience, during the era of New Russian capitalism the Russian police has adopted a “quasi-market” approach to its work. This shift has seriously altered the entire law enforcement institution over the last 20 years through four interrelated transformations:

31First, despite the profession’s unpopularity (as our informants admit) by the end of the Soviet period, strong social and financial support from the state served to maintain the prestige of a career in the police. In the early 1980s, a police officer received a starting salary of 200 rubles (in comparison, a young engineer earned 100–120 rubles) in addition to generous social benefits. Joining the police forces presented an opportunity for rural youth to move to urban areas. Top police officers were granted an apartment close to the districts where they served. Finally, in the 1980s for many the profession of police officer was associated with romantic images of “crime fighters” and “guards of socialist legality,” images that were powerfully reinforced by the Soviet film industry and literature.

32Second, working conditions for law enforcement officers have deteriorated. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, salaries dropped dramatically while occupational risks increased. As a result, large numbers of professional cadres have left the MVD since 1991. The departures led to a decrease in the overall professionalism of the ministry’s employees, a “quite personal disaster” in the words of one informant. Specifically, the Soviet tradition of mentoring—an effective system of transmitting professional experience on a personal level—has been abandoned. New police recruits have no opportunity for learning to work with documents, build relationships with citizens seeking help, and other important everyday skills. By 2009, a police official with three year’s experience was considered to be a professional, but according to one 50-year-old Kazan police captain, to truly “become a professional police officer it takes 7–10 years”. Teachers in police secondary schools (where future MVD employees receive vocational education) complain that new students arrive with a low level of prior education, weak health, and a distorted understanding of their future profession.

33Third, throughout the 1990s, the principle of negative personnel selection in the police caused veteran policemen motivated by professional and ethical measures to be gradually squeezed out of the “system” and replaced with younger officers willing to tolerate and participate in corruption. According to one St. Petersburg police captain:

Let’s say you’re working in a PPS crew, for example, and you detain a drunken person who had money on him; your comrades quietly take the money, and the drunk was taken for a night in the pre-detention facility… This happens again, and both times you refuse to take money. It happens a third time and your colleagues will set you up. Why do they need you in the crew if you are so honest? The system squeezes out such honest officers.”

34Fourth, honest means of earning extra income within the police force were limited. While some increased their own workload, took weekend shifts, or served on a dispatch to Chechnya, many preferred to leave the force to join the private security sector or the business world, or to become lawyers, in many cases earning more money in a more honest way than what they would as MVD employees. Other police officers remain on the force but take on part time jobs outside the MVD, usually as private security guards or taxi drivers. Despite the fact that the law “On Police” forbids policemen from working multiple jobs, MVD managers often prefer to overlook such irregularities so as to allow police personnel to survive on these additional income sources.

35Policemen that prefer to profit through the commercialization of police activity have often turned to criminal activities, including racketeering, the protection of prostitutes and drug dealers, and car theft. “If there is no pay, you should teach yourself how to earn. A man in uniform usually has a lot of different possibilities”, said a 28-year-old St. Petersburg sergeant.

36The degrading system of personnel selection, the erosion of ethical standards (“whom do we serve?”), and the mass exodus of professionals from the MVD during the 1990s contributed to the emergence of a “quasi-market” environment within the ministry. This environment is tellingly described in an insider joke among police personnel: A boss asks a young policeman why he hasn’t shown up to pick up his salary for three months, and the young policeman is surprised: “What, I get paid here, too? I thought I was only given a gun and had to use that to provide for myself!”

37This “quasi market” approach within the MVD strengthened patronage relations within the law-enforcement system. Success required not proven professionalism, but rather the development of patronage relations within the ministry.

38Inconvenient” officers were gradually squeezed out of enforcement agencies while those open to participate in collective corruption were attracted to the services. Today, a successful career in the MVD does not require professionalism or demonstrated progress in crime prevention; it is enough to have patrons and to obey their instructions, and most importantly to share with them the illegal profits received in the course of corrupt police work. Organized by the clan principle, the MVD suggests that informal rules are more important and effective than formal rules enshrined in laws and regulations. Ordinary employees in a given department focus primarily on resolving internal clan-corporate objectives, and only secondarily on fulfilling their immediate responsibilities for the preservation of law and order.


39The study of the police personnel’s self-perception of their profession has shown that the Russia Ministry of Internal Affairs has undergone substantial changes over the past 20 years. First, there is an obvious trend of decreasing skills among and incentives for police officers, which is aggravated by the decline of social prestige associated with the law enforcement agencies.

40Second, only those police officers willing to take and pay bribes have been able to survive in the ministry, to the point that the prevailing focus among Russian police on self-sufficiency has relegated service duties to acquire an almost optional character. Thus, the mass commercialization of the law enforcement services, in tandem with the unprecedented growth of corruption within in the MVD, have become the main transformative feature of the post-Soviet police.

41Third, distrust between the police and society in Russia has been growing. The police as a professional group are becoming more isolated from society, leading the public to disregard the police functions pertaining to ensuring safety for state and society.

42Fourth, there is a growing tendency of the police’s readiness to break the law. Experience has taught police officers to regard the law as flexible and selectively applied. In 20 years of post-Soviet history, the concept of “the rule of law” has failed to become a professional principle for the Russian police, remaining an abstract declaration detached from their everyday practice.

43Finally, because the MVD has lost its ability to function as an efficient law enforcement and crime prevention institution, this inevitably has led to the increasing criminalization of society.

44Thus, we must acknowledge that by 2009 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation actually had lost its integrity as a state institution. The police had irreversibly abandoned state authority and pursued internal conflicts organized along the clan principle as well as with armed “bandit groups”. Of course, a significant number of employees remain who are not affected by moral erosion and the “spirit of corruption”. And in the course of this study, we have repeatedly met with professional, honest policemen who, despite the systematic degradation of the institution, have tried to perform their professional duty honestly.

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1 This refers to the story of Captain Groshev’s conviction for publishing results of a survey of students of Tyumen Law School of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (see footnote 4 in detail); the case of Major Evsyukov, who shot the patrons of a Moscow shop; and the case of Major Dymovsky, who posted on Youtube a video message to Putin exposing the activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

2 For example, the Institute of Internal Affairs–All-Russian Research Institute of Ministry of Internal Affairs (abolished in 2010).

3 In 2007, Captain Groshev, an instructor at the Tyumen Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, conducted a study titled “Assessment of the nature and magnitude of factors distorting the personality of students”. The results were published in the magazine Investigator, # 1, 2008. According to a survey, one-fifth of respondents have given bribes to course officers and almost 15% to teachers. 85% of respondents rated the quality of education as poor. Six out of ten students at the institute cited abuse of power and self-serving abuse of an official position on the part of teachers; 70% said that the institute thrives on whistle-blowing; and another 20% said that they had experienced an “expansion of domestic corruption and drinking.” The value of bribes for admission ranges from 50 thousand to 150 thousand rubles (see: I. Groshev, “Origins and causes of corruption in law enforcement agencies of Russia,” Investigator # 1, 2008, pp. 4–53). After this publication, the Tyumen Institute of the MVD issued an internal circular banning any type of sociological research in the institute, as well as initiating an internal investigation against Groshev, ending with his dismissal from the institute. Moreover, the institute successfully sued Groshev in the Tyumen district court for damages resulting from “injury to business reputation.” The court sentenced Groshev to pay compensation to the institute in the amount of 2 000 rubles, and he was ordered to refute the published information. Such a penalty for violating unspoken boundaries in studies of the police largely explains the thematic specifics of the empirical projects carried out by the MVD Research Institute.

4 B. Gladarev, “Militsiia, ‘Etnicheskie men'shinstva’ i ksenofobiia: Rekonstruktsiia sotsiologicheskoi diskussii”, in Militsiia i etnicheskie migranty: Praktiki vzaimodeistviia, V. Voronkov, B. Gladarev & L. Sagitova (Eds.), St. Petersburg, Aleteiia, 2011, pp. 51–96. See in:

5 See the following works on corruption in the police: N. Kablova, O. Khabibarakhmanov & P. Chikov, Korruptsiia v militsii Tatarstana: Prichiny, masshtab, shemy, Kazan, 2003; O. Kolennikova, L. Kosals, & R. Ryvkina, “Kommertsionalizatsiia sluzhebnoi deiatel'nosti rabotnikov militsii,” Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniia # 3, 2004, pp. 73–83; L. Kosals, Disfunktsional'nye rynki v usloviiakh rossiiskoi transformatsii: Na primere rynka militseiskikh uslug, Moscow: GUVSE, 2005, p. 20; L. Gudkov, and B. Dubin, “Privatizatsiia politsiii,” Indeks proizvola pravookhranitel'nykh organov: Otsenki sotsiologov i kommentarii pravozashchitnikov, 2005, pp. 11–33; and other works. 

6 See the following works on police abuse of human rights: Y. Sinel'nikov, “Nasilie k zaderzhannym: Real'nost' i perspektivy bor'by,” Zakonnost’ # 1, 2000, pp. 10-13; Indeks proizvola pravookhranitel'nykh organov: Otsenki sotsiologov i kommentarii pravozashitnikov, Moscow, 2005, p. 96; Narusheniia prav cheloveka rossiiskimi pravookhranitel'nymi organami: Prichiny i masshtaby iavleniia, praktika i effektivnye metody zashchity prav postradavshikh, Moscow: 2005, p. 150; I. Rushenko, “Bez statusa, ili v ‘iame neopredelennosti’: K probleme nezakonnogo nasiliia v organakh militsii po dannym ukrainskikh issledovanii”, Neprikosnovennyi zapas # 42, 2005, pp.100-105; O. Shepeleva, “Proizvol v rabote militsii: Tipichnye praktiki,” in Reforma pravookhranitel'nykh organov: Preodolenie proizvola, 2005, pp. 29–50; V. Baranov, (Ed.), Problemy diskriminatsii grazhdan po natsional'nomu priznaku i deiatel'nost' pravookhranitel'nykh organov v sovremennoi Rossii: Materialy mezhdunarodnogo nauchno-prakticheskogo seminara, Nizhnii Novgorod, 2006, p. 195.

7 See these works on the interaction of the police with certain groups of citizens: O. Shepeleva, “Pravookhranitel'nye organy - naseleniiu: Chego grazhdane zhdut i ne mogut poluchit' ot militsii”, Neprikosnovennyi zapas, # 42, 2005, pp. 93–99; O. Shedrina “Vozmozhnosti ispol'zovaniia printsipov mul'tikul'turalizma v praktike podderzhaniia pravoporiadka v polietnichnykh gorodakh”, Ph.D. dissertation, 2005, p. 173; Etnicheski izbiratel'nyi podkhod v deistviiakh militsii v moskovskom metro Moscow, 2006; A. Novikova, Molodezh' i pravookhranitel'nye organy: Problema doveriia. Issledovatel'skii otchet, Fond “Obshchestvennyi verdikt”, 2006; Militsiia i etnicheskie migranty: Praktiki vzaimodeistviia, St. Petersburg, 2011.

8 Studies related to the topic of reforming the MVD: O. Gryaznova,”Mesto pravookhranitel'nykh organov v strukture sotsial'nykh otnoshenii”, in Indeks proizvola pravookhranitel'nykh organov: Otsenki sotsiologov i kommentarii pravozashitnikov Moscow, 2005, pp. 34–58; “Militsiia v kommentariiakh i otsenkakh ekspertov,”15 let rossiiskoi militsii: Informatsionno-analiticheskii biulleten' fonda “Obshchestvennyi verdikt”, #  2, 2005; Reforma pravookhranitel'nykh organov: Preodolenie proizvola, Moscow: Demos, 2005; Kontseptsiia reformirovaniia MVD RF: Materialy rabochei gruppy NPO po reforme MVD, Moscow, 2010; Reforma militsii: Otsenki i ozhidaniia grazhdan. Rezul'taty sotsiologicheskikh issledovanii i kommentarii ekspertov, Moscow: 2010.

9 See, for example: F. Gorodinets, “Professionalizm i pravovaia kul'tura sotrudnikov militsii”, in Organy vnutrennikh del na puti k pravovomu gosudarstvu: Sbornik trudov ad'iunktov i soiskatelei vol. 1, 1993, pp. 35–37; V. Kozhevnikov, “Problemy professionalizma sotrudnikov vnutrennikh del,” Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniia # 9, 1999, pp. 55–59; M. Koraleva, “K voprosu o pravosoznanii sotrudnikov pravookhranitel'nykh organov,” in Aktual'naya problema pravosoznaniia v sovremennoi Rossii: Sb. nauchnykh trudov NII problem ukrepleniia zakonnosti i pravoporiadka pri general'noi prokurature RF, vol. 2, 2005, pp. 49–60.

10 On the interaction between police and civil society, see: B. Taylor, “Pravookhranitel'nye organy i grazhdanskoe obshchestvo v Rossii,” Otechestvennye zapiski # 6, 2005, pp. 148–162; Y. Pobotkin, “Rol' obshchestvennykh sovetov pri OVD sub'ektov PFO v deiatel'nosti po predotvrasheniiu razzhiganiia natsional'noi rozni,” in Problemy diskriminatsii grazhdan po natsional'nomu priznaku i deiatel'nost' pravookhranitel'nykh organov v sovremennoi Rossii, Nizhnii Novgorod, 2006, pp. 51–58; Modeli grazhdanskogo kontrolia v regionakh Rossii: Lokal'nye uspekhi i strategicheskie neudachi, Moscow, 2005.

11 1) The project “Informal economic activities of law enforcement agencies in Russia: A Sociological Analysis” implemented by a research group headed by Leonid Koslas (GUVSE) in 2001–2002. 2) The project “Ethnic minorities in the Russian police,” conducted by CNSI staff in partnership with the human rights organization “Civil Control” in 2004. 3) The project “The arbitrariness of law enforcement agencies: practice and reasons” implemented by a group of sociologists from the Center “Demos” in 2004–2005. 4) The project “Formation of tolerance and prevention of extremism in Russian society” implemented by social scientists of the Center of Ethnic Sociology IS RAN in 2001–2005. 5) The project “Ethnic selectivity in the actions of police officers in the Moscow subway” conducted by NGO Iuriks in collaboration with “Lambert Consulting” in 2005. 6) The project “The police and ethnic minorities: the practice of interaction in Kazan and St. Petersburg” implemented in 2006–2009 by staff of CNSI (St. Petersburg) and ISIGI (Kazan) with support from the J. and C. MacArthur Foundation.

12 My experience of interviewing police officers, as well as of participant observation in the work of “guards of order” clearly indicates that there are serious barriers for the outside observer. Collecting empirical material in 2007–2008, I was faced with the situation that a third of the 18 police officer informants (found through personal social networks, which guaranteed complete anonymity and appropriate use of these interviews) refused to be interviewed with an audio recorder. Participant observation presented even more difficulty; despite cultivating trust in my relationships with some of the ordinary police officers, my ability to monitor the practices of their everyday work was often limited, as my informants regularly hinted at in statements such as “there will not be anything interesting,” or “the authorities will be unhappy if we take you on a call,” or, more candidly, “It’s not for prying eyes”.

13 The project involved, from the Institute of Social Studies and Civic Initiatives in Kazan, O. Maksimov, L. Sagitova, and E. Khozhdaeva, and from the Center for Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg, V. Voronkov, P. Meylahs, J. Zinman and the author of the article.

14 The main results of this study were published in the collective monograph Militsiia i etnicheskie migranty: Praktiki vzaimodeistviia, St. Petersburg, 2011, and also in some separate articles: B. Gladarev, “Mutatsii diadi Stepy,” Neva, # 1, 2009, pp. 153–165; B. Gladarev & J. Tsinman, “Militsionery i gastarbaitery: Ulichnye praktiki pereraspredeleniia resursov,” Sotsiologicheskii zhurnal, # 1, 2010, p. 37; B. Gladarev, “Professiia ‘rossiiskii militsioner’: Usloviia sluzhby i vnutri institutsional'naya logika,” in Antropologiia professii, ili Postoronnim vkhod razreshen, 2011, pp. 113–134; E. Khodzhaeva, “Pod nedremliushim okom: Trudovye migranty i militsiia v Kazani,” Neprikosnovennyi zapas # 3, 2010, p. 71; E. Khozhdaeva, “‘Chastnoe’ i ‘publichnoe’ v prostranstvennoi organizatsii povsednevnykh praktik uchastkovogo (opyt etnograficheskogo opisaniia),” Laboratorium # 3, 2011, pp. 18–52. 

15 Until 2005, a police officer was entitled to free travel on public transport, paid the state only 50% for utilities (electricity, telephone, gas, water, heating, etc.), received free medical care in departmental clinics, had a right to compensation for expenses for yearly family vacation travel, and retired after 25 years of service.

16 For examples refer to: A. Coffey, E. Eldefonso, and W. Harbinger, (Eds.), Human Relations: Law Enforcement in a Changing Community, Englewood Cliffs, NY: Prentice Hall, 1982; J. Crank, “Watchman and Community: Myth and Institutionalization in Policing,” Law & Society Review # 28, 1994, pp. 325–351.

17 Federal Law № 1026-1 “On the Police” on April 18, 1991.

18 See in: L. Gudkov, B. Dubin, A. Leonova, “Militseiskoe nasilie i problema ‘politseiskogo gosudarstva’”, Vestnik obshchestvennogo mneniia 72, # 4, 2004, pp. 31-47.

19 Glass is police slang for disciplinary action normally expressed in the deprivation of a monthly bonus to salary, which ranges from 30-70% of an officer’s earnings.

20 G. Peters, The Politics of Bureaucracy New York, Routledge, 1990; J. Skolnick and J. Fyfe, Above the Law: Police and the Excessive Use of Force, New York, Free Press, 1993.

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Electronic reference

Boris Gladarev, « Russian Police before the 2010-2011 Reform: A Police Officer’s Perspective  », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 13 | 2012, Online since 20 November 2012, connection on 03 March 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Boris Gladarev

Center for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg

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