“We don’t need police”.
It was not the most subtle – or clever – of slogans to parade anywhere in Russia, never mind outside the Interior Ministry; the lone protester who was brave or foolish enough to carry such a sign was duly dispatched by a group of officers into a nearby van.
But the government has acknowledged that there is widespread resentment towards the forces of law and order.
A vast reform of the institution notorious for corruption and violence was signed into law on March 1.
Initiated by President Medvedev last year after numerous scandals, the aim is to change the image of a force whose employees – in the words of an analyst – “rob, rape, murder, drink-drive expensive cars, and run over other people.”
Officers will have to re-apply for their jobs, numbers are to be cut by 20 percent, and the official name “militia” in place since the revolution is to be changed to “police”.
Revolutionary? “No, why should anything change?” asked one Muscovite. “It would have been easy if you could do so by just writing something. The police must change their habits,” he said.
While opinion polls suggest many agree with him, a new video has been posted on the internet by a group known as “war”.
It shows young women approaching female police officers in the street or the metro – and planting kisses on their mouths or cheeks.
Whether it will work is another matter. But the “Kiss A Cop” campaign is designed to encourage police to embrace the reforms.