Six Moscow police officers suspected of falsely arresting homeless people and panhandlers to pad their crime-solving statistics have gone missing after the Interior Ministry prematurely released their names to the media, the Investigative Committee said Tuesday.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said an investigation would be opened to ascertain who at the Interior Ministry had published the names of the suspects on the ministry's official web site without first receiving permission from the Investigative Committee, which was investigating the six officers.
“Investigators will find out who distributed the information and why they disrupted the investigation of a criminal case," Markin said, RIA-Novosti reported.
He said the six police officers worked in the Yakimanka neighborhood of Moscow's Central Administrative District, which covers the area between the Tretyakov Gallery and Gorky Park. They are suspected of fabricating serious criminal charges against homeless people and panhandlers, sometimes plying them with alcohol to get them drunk and willing to confess to the crimes, Markin said.
Investigators are searching for the six missing police officers, Markin said. If charged and convicted of abuse of office, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Police officers face strong pressure from their superiors to solve crimes, with bonuses and promotions tied to their work performance. Several active and former police officers have told The Moscow Times that they falsified crime-solving statistics to keep on good terms with their bosses.
Another way to improve crime-solving statistics is to win a large number of easy court cases.
The Moscow City Court has seen a recent surge in such cases filed by police officers, who complained that they were victims of minor violations such as verbal abuse from citizens, chief judge Olga Yegorova told Vesti state television earlier this month.
She accused the police officers of making up the violations to improve their crime-solving statistics.
Meanwhile, former Novorossiisk police officer Alexei Dymovsky, who accused his superiors of forcing police officers to manipulate statistics and of other forms of corruption in a YouTube video, was ordered to pay them $30,000 in damages after losing a defamation lawsuit Tuesday, RIA-Novosti reported. The court awarded the damages to senior Novorossiisk police officers Vladimir Chernositov and Valery Medvedev.
Separately, President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed the head of the Interior Ministry's transportation police division, Lieutenant-General Vyacheslav Zakharenkov, the Kremlin said on its web site Tuesday. Zakharenkov, 48, had headed the transportation police since 2001. The Kremlin provided no explanation for his dismissal. The transportation police came under harsh criticism following a bombing that killed 28 people on a Nevsky Express train traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg in November.
Medvedev earlier ordered Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev to draft reforms to curb false crime-solving statistics and root out other forms of corruption. Nurgaliyev has nine months to carry out the reforms, RBC Daily reported Tuesday, citing a ministry source.