Kazan, Dalny and the problems and prospects of police reform

I’ve just written an opinion piece for the admirable Kazan Herald on ‘Glimmers of Hope in the Kazan Police Scandal‘, trying to make some sense of the ghastly case of the apparent (well, pretty conclusive, but technically not yet proven in a court of law) death of a man after he was brutally abused in the city’s Dalny (Dal’nii) police precinct. It may seem counter-intuitive to be looking for hope in such a tragedy, but the scale and nature of the public outcry, the authorities’ quick and decisive response are encouraging and initiatives such as the decision to instal video cameras in interrogation rooms may well help more concrete the often vague precepts of the 2011 Law on the Police. After all, police reform will inevitably be a halting, two-steps-forward-one-step-back process, a cultural and institutional change far slower and more complex than just spray-painting полиция over милиция on the sides of their cars. But part of the process, unpleasant as it may be at the time, will precisely be in flushing out decades of accumulated filth from the system. That other victims of the Dalny police, and the Kazan police as a whole, are now coming forward with their stories, stories which are terrible precisely because they are not atypical, that they could be heard in every part of Russia, is a good thing. The truth shall not always set you free, but it is at least a pretty unavoidable precondition for creating a more positive relationship between police and policed in the future.

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