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New service centres symbolise ongoing police reforms in Kazakhstan

By Aydar Ashimov

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A police service centre in Taraz, seen here on its opening day on November 30, 2018, has already received a positive response from citizens. [Zhambyl Province police department]

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Locals speak with a police service centre representative in Taraz on November 30, 2018. [Zhambyl Province police department]

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A comfortable waiting room can be seen at a police service centre in Taraz on November 30, 2018. [Zhambyl Province police department]

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Police personnel at the new police service centre in Taraz, pictured November 30, 2018, help resolve citizens' problems and inquiries quickly. [Zhambyl Province police department]

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Civilians speak with representatives at a police service centre in Taraz on January 16, 2019. [Aydar Ashimov]

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An officer assists a visitor at a police service centre in Taraz on January 16, 2019. [Aydar Ashimov]

ASTANA -- New police service centres in Kazakhstan are conveying a new attitude of helping the public, impressed civilians say.

Instead of forcing people to endure long lines and a stressful environment, the centres come with reception rooms and friendly staff.

Civilians using the new service centres find comfortable waiting rooms, ramps for the disabled, queue number machines, payment terminals, televisions and coffee machines.

The police receive complaints in such centres, in which migration police and administrative police work together. All public comments and suggestions receive consideration, officials say.

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Interior Minister Kalmunkhabet Kasymov presents the new Kazakh police uniform to President Nursultan Nazarbayev November 19, 2018, in Astana. [Kazakh presidential press office]

A number of such police service centres have opened in Almaty and Astana, as well as in Akmola, Mangystau, North Kazakhstan and Kostanay provinces, according to the Interior Ministry (MVD).

Saving time, preventing corruption

One of the police service centres that opened in Taraz on November 30 has received a positive response from citizens.

Abai Akmatov, a Kyrgyz national who visited the new Taraz police service centre January 16 to obtain a Kazakh residency permit, said he can feel the difference.

"Last year I contacted the police concerning temporary registration... there were lines then and it was not as convenient as it is now," he told Caravanserai.

"The changes are for the better; even the police officers have become more welcoming," he said. "I received a consultation, made a copy of the sample application and all the details were explained to me."

The new police service centres are "based on the principles of the public service centres" that have operated in Kazakhstan for several years and represent other government agencies, said Gulsara Mukhtarkulova, a spokeswoman for the Zhambyl provincial police.

"They don't make visitors show passes to get in, and friendly staffers work directly with visitors," she told Caravanserai. "This reduces the time needed to review requests and reduces the risk of corruption."

Changes in police

The new reception rooms are just one part of police reform in Kazakhstan.

Deputy Interior Minister Janat Suleimenov described the government's plans for modernising and reforming the police force at a news conference in Astana January 8.

The ministry will begin scheduled as well as unannounced testing of police officers in the first half of 2019 to make sure they meet the requirements for their jobs, he said, according to the Kazakh government.

"The testing will include verification of physical fitness and of proficiency with firearms, computerised testing of legal knowledge and of logical thinking, as well as an interview," Suleimenov said.

Polls to measure civilians' sense of satisfaction with the level of public safety and with the quality of police work are planned, he said.

The Kazakh government also plans to cut police staffing by 10% nationwide to use the savings "to give police employees a raise", he said.

Last August, President Nursultan Nazarbayev even discussed replacing the country's police officers entirely with law school graduates.

Meanwhile, on November 19, the president approved a new uniform for police officers. It is dark blue inscribed with the word "Politsiiya" rather than the gray outfits with the old Soviet term "Militsiya" being worn now.

Different uniforms now exist to reflect different seasons and changing weather.

"I like the new uniform ... the new design of the uniform is more modern and more comfortable," Madiyar Ibrayev, an Akmola Province police officer, told Caravanserai. "We see big changes in our daily work, and a new uniform is like the tip of the iceberg and a symbol of changes in the MVD's system."

The transition to the new uniform will take place gradually, as old uniforms wear out, according to the MVD.

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What's the use of showing the same thing over and over again? Children died in Astana, I don't mind people with disabilities, it is important to fight for them, but where are the moms with large families [in the picture]? Had those moms had some government support, there would be twice as many of our Kazakhs already. And it wouldn't be necessary to spend billions of tenge to invite Kazakhs from other countries and waste so much money to cover their expenses and the initial financial support all these years. This time and this money could be used to raise our own Kazakhs by helping large families. Had they supported moms with large families for 25 plus years, the number of the population in Kazakhstan could be increased by 40% and the budget would have grown as much. And those who were born soon after Kazakhstan became independent would have had their own children already, as Nursultan Nazarbaev said. He himself grew up in a poor family of ordinary people. So, maybe the future of Kazakhstan are moms with large families.

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