The Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption has prepared for the second reading a bill on expanding the powers of police officers. In the end, everything turned out to be not as scary as it could have been: at least the police will not be able to shoot if they only imagine the threat of an attack. Citizens are encouraged to claim compensation for damage from burglary to a police car or apartment in court.
Ernest Valeev (ER), Deputy Head of the Committee for Security and Anti-Corruption, reminded colleagues that the first attempts to make similar changes to the Law on Police were made back in 2013, and the current, third version of the bill was introduced by the government and adopted in the first reading in December 2020.
This document, Mr. Valeev diplomatically noted, “aroused very great public interest” (that is, it was criticized by the Human Rights Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova, and the Federal Chamber of Lawyers, and a number of other experts and human rights activists), but now the government has proposed 28 amendments, with which “a number of controversial issues” are removed. The committee recommended the text with these amendments to the House for adoption in the second reading next week.
Indeed, far from all the “controversial issues” were removed – but, of course, the most obvious and annoying ones. For example, in the first reading it was proposed to expand the right of employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to use weapons. A police officer who had already put his weapon on alert in the presence of serious threats should have been given the right to shoot not only at the detainee who was approaching or “touched” his service weapon, but also if the citizen committed undefined “other actions giving grounds to regard them as a threat attacks “.
By the second reading, it was decided not to make any changes to the article of the Law “On the Police”, which refers to the use of weapons. Everything will remain as it is now: an unconditional prohibition to shoot to kill women regardless of their age and degree of pregnancy, as well as “persons with obvious signs of disability” or minors, if their age is obvious or known to the police. And only if pregnant women, disabled people or children show armed resistance or participate in an armed attack, can they be fired at.
But the expansion of other powers of the police will take place in the amount requested by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The right to “set up posts and barriers” will be supplemented by the right to “temporarily fence” not only the places of crimes or administrative offenses (road accidents, for example), but also places of mass public events, as well as territories, “block” residential buildings or land plots.
Personal search of citizens, their belongings and cars will be possible not only “if there is evidence” that these citizens are carrying or transporting something prohibited, such as weapons or radioactive substances – it will be enough that the police officer has “reason to believe” that a citizen is carrying or carrying something wrong. Now it is possible to enter the homes of Russians or open their cars without consent “to stop crimes” – and it will also be possible to detain suspects in committing crimes or those whom eyewitnesses will point out as having committed a crime. And also in connection with the “verification of the received messages” about the violation …
Opening vehicles without the consent of the owners for the sake of saving the lives of citizens or suppressing a crime will be allowed even if inside there is an offender of an accident “with signs of alcoholic intoxication.” If the owner was not there, he would have to be notified of the incident within 24 hours, and the police would have to ensure that unauthorized persons were not allowed into the car.
Another reason for opening a vehicle without the consent of the owner is “establishing the circumstances of the accident”. “A child is locked, a person who has lost consciousness, a corpse is in the cabin,” said Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Igor Zubov at a committee meeting. And Mr. Valeev noted that the police in this case only receive the same powers that the Russian Guard has already had for several years, “while the main body ensuring public order is the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Russian Guard only assists in this.”
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Rosgvardia itself, there are no complaints about violations when opening cars, the committee notes.
Initially, they wanted to prescribe that the police would not be liable for damaged property in the event of penetration into a home without the consent of the owner or a hacked car. And one more thing – that “in the performance of duties” and in connection with “the implementation of the rights granted to the police” the employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in principle, are not responsible for anything. But by the second reading, these controversial norms were also removed from the text of the bill.
Aleksey Kurinny (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) offered to stipulate: if an autopsy or penetration turns out to be “unreasonable”, compensation for harm to the owner “is carried out at the expense of the federal budget.” But Mr. Zubov replied that the Civil Code already gives the right to demand through the court full compensation for damages caused, and in some cases compensation for damage caused, even if the actions of the officials were lawful.
“If a police officer is guilty, there will be compensation,” the deputy minister said. “If we overregulate everything, there will be no employees left in the police, because we will give everyone a reason to make claims against them,” noted Anatoly Vyborny (United Russia). The number of court decisions on claims of citizens against the Ministry of Internal Affairs is still great, said representatives of the police department.