Police corruption: all you need is trust

Hands Opening Envelope Containing Cash

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Natalia Antonova – January 28, 2013)

On Saturday, an inebriated policeman was involved in a deadly car accident on Leninsky Prospekt in Moscow. The policeman, whose official salary is 50,000 rubles a month, was behind the wheel of a Range Rover (the cost of which is about 3.5 million rubles). One person was killed after the cop lost control of the vehicle.

The cop in question is a member of an elite squadron responsible for the security of important government buildings, research institutes and the like. According to an expert quoted by Moskovsky Komsomolets, corruption appears to be thriving in the squadron.

The policeman and his immediate boss have already been fired, while several other members of the squadron are facing additional scrutiny.

This debacle perfectly illustrates what Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev meant when he talked about the public’s lack of trust in the police, after being appointed to his post last year. It also illustrates the challenges facing honest cops: if you’re struggling to provide for your family while your colleagues are zipping around Moscow in Range Rovers, you’re going to feel especially bitter about being decent.

One of the scariest aspects of police corruption in Moscow is how it encourages disdain for regular people. Corrupt cops think themselves to be kings of the castle ­ and since they are even more powerful than regular criminals, they act like it, too.

Police corruption exists in all countries, but it is blatant and inyour- face in Moscow, and as such, encourages general lawlessness. After all, if law enforcement could care less about the rules, why should a regular person bother?

Personally, I flinch every time I see a cop car glide by as I’m walking home late in the evening. As a woman out on the street after dark, I should be happy that they’re out on patrol. Instead, I want to walk away as fast as possible. I’ve asked myself why I do that, and the answer is simple: I don’t know whether the cops inside the patrol car are to be trusted. And I say this as someone who has been lucky enough to encounter exceedingly polite and professional cops in the city.

Until the public has more reasons to trust the police, until such incidents as the Leninsky Prospekt one become shocking as opposed to mundane, fear and loathing will prevail.