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Public Offered a Say in Police Reforms

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev called on the public Wednesday to help draft legislation to replace a 1991 law on the police, which he blamed in part for the corruption surrounding his agency.

Nurgaliyev told Militseiskaya Volna radio that the new legislation would "carry a new spirit" and "its main principle will be to protect the rights and freedoms of our citizens."

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered Nurgaliyev to reform the country's police force, whose reputation has been ravaged by a series of scandals involving corruption and violence. Nurgaliyev is supposed to submit his proposals for the reform to the president by the end of March.

Nurgaliyev said Wednesday that a draft of the new legislation would be published on the Interior Ministry's web site for public review on April 1.

“Every voice will be heard and counted. We know that there will be criticism and debate, but we are prepared for that,” Nurgaliyev said.

He warned, however, that work on the legislation would not be driven by "emotions from the incidents that have taken place."

Corruption and violence have plagued the police force for years, but the problem took center stage after a senior Moscow police officer went on a shooting rampage last April, killing two people. A steady stream of incidents involving police extortion, cover-ups and murder have filled the media since then, provoking widespread public anger.

Speaking about the 1991 law, Nurgaliyev said it carries references to more than 200 other laws and internal regulations, some of which contradict one another, and thereby opens the door for individual interpretation.

Nurgaliyev said the Interior Ministry has established a task force of human rights activists, politicians and seasoned police officers to draft the new legislation. The task force will be chaired by Deputy Interior Minister Sergei Bulavin.

Medvedev appointed Bulavin, a former senior official in the Kremlin administration, as deputy interior minister in mid-March to boost police reforms.

Medvedev has said he will personally oversee the reforms, which aim to halve the staff at the Interior Ministry's headquarters and cut the country's 1.2 million-member police force by 20 percent.

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