Belarus celebrated 100 years of Belarusian militsiya (police) on March 4, 2017. 100 years passed since the times of 19th-century policemen in the Russian Empire, whose monument was unveiled in Minsk on March 2, 2017. 100th anniversary of the first chief of Minsk civilian militia, former revolutionary, Mikhail Frunze, who was known under the pseudonym Mikhailov. Today Belarusians have other police heroes. Nevertheless, police officers’ main aim stays the same: they must ensure security and social order. But what has changed? What does a Belarusian police officer do now? The special correspondent Evgeniy Pustovoy carried out his own investigation.
Though criminal authorities and racketeers no longer exist, Belarusian police is always on duty. Same as the policeman that stands near the Museum of the Central Department of Ideological Work at 7 Gorodskoy Val Street. The image of the Imperial police officer was reconstructed in great details. Even the difference of shoulder straps was kept.
Igor Shunevich, Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus:
In the 19th century, police officers were mostly old soldiers returned from the front or military service. So they left a military strap in respect of their service on one shoulder, and put a police strap on another one. Sometimes ranks were different.
The monument has an appearance of a real person, however, the person is kept in secret.
Colleagues from other parts of the USSR looked up to Belarusian police officers in the 1970s. It was Belarusian police that restrained criminality in the 1990s.
Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarus President:
The high rate of criminality and weakness of the authorities were the main problems at the beginning of the 1990s. Belarusian people needed protection. The majority of people I address now understand me, because they saw it all, they lived through it. Some of them imposed order at that time. They remember that all. People really needed great support and guidance. We managed to return them confidence in the future, to establish the rule of law, and to restore authority of the state.
One district office of internal affairs gets nearly 100-150 inquiries a day. They are different, beginning with noise at neighbors’ and ending with a murder.
Shooting and chases take place mostly on TV. Off screen, six out of ten inquiries are family quarrels. When close people cannot hear each other, a district police officer must carefully listen to claims of both sides. In Belarus, he or she is not a sheriff or a police officer, but an intermediary.
If you want to know how people live in a country talk to district police officers. They are on the front line. People trust them with their most precious things. Though sometimes people criticize the police, or are dissatisfied with it, they understand that without it they would not have the security they value so high now.
Andrey Kononovich, the senior district police officer of the Kletsk District Department of Internal Affairs (Minsk Region):
If we have to punish a person, i.e. to bring administrative action against him or her, we must point to the reason. And usually people thank us afterwards. I mean it.
Andrey Kononovich tries to end domestic disputes with reconciliation. Within 12 years of work, people started to treat him in a familiar way, but with great respect.
He conciliated thousands of disputes and saved dozens of families from alcoholism during his career.
He is always welcome at residents’ houses. People turn to him for help or advice, or can even cry on his shoulder straps.
Zinaida Bombezhko, a resident:
I was in trouble five years ago. He was beside me for two and a half hours, while I solved my problems. He always helps us. He is a good man.
The most important thing is not to punish people, but to stay close to them, to get through everything with them.
The district police officer has no weekend, no holidays. Once, an ordinary investigation almost ended in shooting and hostage taking.
A man came with a gun and immediately pointed it at me. I spoke with him for 15 minutes, so that neither he nor I pulled the trigger.
Self-control and great experience helped the officer to avoid the tragedy. If a single word seemed wrong, the Special Rapid Response Team (SRRT) would be called to resolve the situation.
The main purpose of the Special Rapid Response Team is to serve to and protect the motherland.
Though the crime rate nowadays is rather low in Belarus, there happen some heinous crimes that are covered in mass media. However, many details of arrests are still hidden from curious reporters, because the SRRT was working on this case.
Even hardened criminals do not dare to show off in front of Belarusian police officers.
Russians made a lot of films and series about police, wrote many songs about it. They changed its name and its uniform. Belarusians, in their turn, retained the traditions of the police, but are gradually changing the scope of work.