By Maksim Yeniseyev
Traffic police check a motorist's documents in Namangan Province March 3. [TV screenshot]
TASHKENT -- The first police reform law in Uzbekistan's history took effect on March 17, replacing a patchwork of ad hoc rules and internal regulations that gave police little accountability but also little recourse if they had complaints about working conditions.
The law establishes the rights and responsibilities of police officers, as well as employment rules and benefits.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the bill on September 17.
The government, in the months since the bill's passage by parliament, has worked to make police reform front and centre.
In remarks February 9 during a video conference with Interior Ministry (MVD) leaders, Mirziyoyev criticised shortcomings in police work and called for improvements.
He listed some flaws of Uzbekistani law enforcement: public dissatisfaction with its quality of work; poor results in fighting theft, fraud and traffic violations; and slow investigations.
Private citizens agree with Mirziyoyev's critique.
"Everyone who has filed a report with police knows that gaining any real attention is very hard," Tashkent resident Stanislav Petkov told Caravanserai, acknowledging that "crime prevention inspectors have an excessive workload".
Uzbekistan is a safe place, an achievement for which police deserve credit, another Tashkent resident, Emil Ganiyev, told Caravanserai. "[But] traffic police are firmly tied to corruption," he said.
The criticism is bringing promises of improvement from police officials.
"A significant number of crimes are unsolved," said Aziz Zakirov, chief of police of Shaikhantakhur District, Tashkent, in February, according to the MVD press office. "All members of the police should step up their efforts to suppress activity by radicals ... and by crime rings that sometimes make common cause with terrorists and finance them."
The government hopes to see more accountability among MVD leaders, faster resolution of citizens' complaints, professional staffing and strict discipline, Mirziyoyev said during the videoconference February 9.
Police also need some relief from their burdens, observers have pointed out.
The new law's workplace protection for police is badly needed, Tashkent political scientist Valerii Khan told Caravanserai, referring to past abuses like unpaid overtime.
"We need to think about their workload and social safety net," he said. "We need to relieve them of unnecessary paperwork ... and improve their quality of life and [other] working conditions."
Authorities intend to make every Thursday a "Crime Prevention Day". On these days, law enforcement officials will announce on TV crime statistics for the week and carry out crime prevention efforts in the community, as reported by UzDaily.com.
The first one took place February 16, a police officer at the Yakkasaray District police station in Tashkent told Caravanserai.
Members of the district police broke up into various focus groups, said the police officer, who requested anonymity.
Duties included "checking attendance rates at schools and colleges, discussing crimes with mahalla [neighbourhood association] residents, holding mobile court sessions and enforcing traffic laws", the police officer said.
In Tashkent alone from February 23 through March 2, police conducting such preventive events nabbed 58 fugitives, senior police Lt. Anor Karimov told Podrobno.uz March 2.
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