Uzbekistan shifts from Soviet-era public perception of law enforcement
TASHKENT -- The Uzbek government is continuing efforts to improve the image of the nation's police officers and public opinion about law enforcement.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in 2017 announced 78 different reforms of law enforcement to take effect by 2021. The government launched the first measures at the beginning of this year.
For example, in April, law enforcement agencies launched a rating system for their employees and started actively using Facebook and the Telegram messenger app to respond to citizen complaints.
On August 23, Mirziyoyev signed a resolution introducing a new system to monitor and manage law enforcement personnel.
As part of the resolution, the Interior Ministry (MVD) is expected to prepare a proposal for new uniforms and rank insignia for police officers by September 20.
The new uniforms are supposed to comply with international standards and to generate a positive image of the MVD among citizens.
In addition, the ministry will develop and introduce a "Code of Behaviour and Association" for interacting with the public on highways, streets and squares that is to be strictly observed.
In spite of the large-scale work done to reform police departments, the education of staff and their professionalism remain poor, according to the August resolution.
Under the resolution, the MVD is set to launch both a special Organisational Department and an Institute for the Improvement of MVD Qualifications within a month.
In addition to these measures, groups of psychologists are being formed to work with police officers, ministry officials said.
"The Organisational Department will deal with evaluating the effectiveness of police departments and will check and inspect them," Zafar Matyakubov, spokesman for the MVD, told Caravanserai.
"The MVD internal affairs directorates [for investigating corrupt police] will now be directly subordinate to the minister of internal affairs, and more than 50% of their staff will be replaced," he added. "These steps are essential for strong oversight of MVD employees in the provinces."
The biggest innovation of the reform is educational and psychological work with police staff, Matyakubov said.
The resolution also introduces a new deputy chief position for educational work in the police departments of districts and cities, he said. They will be responsible for maintaining strict observance of the rule of law and of discipline.
Changing public perception
Psychologists have been working with police officers since the beginning of last month, according to the Tashkent Police Department.
"First of all, training sessions are taking place with patrol officers, traffic police, crime prevention inspectors, security guards for government buildings, and local police officers," Tashkent Police Chief Rustam Jurayev told journalists August 29, Novosti Uzbekistana reported. "These are the services that have the most frequent contact with the population."
"Specialists train [officers] on social skills, setting up dialogue and proper delivery of a request or an order," he said.
The changing image of law enforcement agencies is being widely discussed on social media networks, he added.
"Since Soviet times, there has been tension in the relationship between the police and the people because the police had always been a repressive agency," Tashkent-based political scientist Umid Asatullayev told Caravanserai.
"I think that a change in image is needed for the Uzbek police," said Artem Kosin, 36, a musician from Tashkent.
"The entire country is being reformed, and the police are still perceived as part of the old regime, which was not noted for its friendliness toward the public," he told Caravanserai. "The biggest problems are connected with the rank-and-file officers. They're not always competent and often behave rudely."