The entire police force — all 81 of them — of the Russian town of Dalny, Kazan, have been sacked according to tweets from the BBC’s Russian correspondent Daniel Sandford.Sandford reports that some will be allowed to reapply for jobs, but only after taking lie detector tests. RFE/RL reports that the senior police chief in the region of Tatarstan has also been fired and the interior minister for the region is being reprimanded.
Russia isn’t usually so swift to work against cases of police corruption and brutality, but something about the case in Dalny is different.
It all started when 52-year-old local Sergei Nazarov went to the store on Friday evening. Life News reports that when he did not return home, his wife called the police and discovered he had been detained.
The man’s brother went to the local police station, and found that Sergei had been arrested for disorderly conduct.
“They promised that he’d be freed the following day, but then emergency services called our mother and said Sergei had been taken from the precinct to the hospital,” the brother told Life News. “His rectum had multiple tears; a big part of his esophagus was damaged. They had to do a complete operation.”
Sergei died in the hospital. Police initially claimed the injuries were self-inflicted, but it later emerged that before Sergei died he told medical staff that police officers had sodomized him with a champagne bottle.
The death has shocked a community that is used to police brutality. Dozens of people have picketed the interior ministry in Kazan, and the Moscow Times reports that others have come forward to say they too were threatened with a champagne bottle.
The timing is important. Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev has made battling police corruption one of the main legacies of his administration. When a teenager died in custody in St Petersburg last month, Medvedev personally fired the city’s police chief, leading to a tense stand off and SWAT teams raiding their own headquarters.
Even so, the dismissal of an entire city’s police force is unprecedented. Gazeta.ru reports that wider reforms are being suggested, including transparent walls between police offices and the removal of detached rooms.
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