Role Reversal As Tomsk Residents Check Police Documents

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian police force have failed to inspire confidence in citizens. They are often seen as corrupt, aggressive, and impotent to deal with some of Russia’s serious crime issues. In an attempt to restore confidence in the police, Dmitry Medvedev embarked on a project of reforms and rebranding which resulted in a name change for the militsia. They are now known as the politsia, a much more internationally recognisable word. Along with this have come a huge number of other changes. Every police officer was forced to re-certify, that is, to pass tests to make sure that his knowledge of the law and fitness was up to scratch. Those failing re-certification were fired, as were any with links to organised crime or any written citations. The aim is to reduce the number of police by around 20%.

A policeman poses for a photograph

The upside for the police though was a huge increase in salary. Some changes were made to the law too, to clarify the rights of citizens and the rights of the police. While the police reserve the right to check documents on their “patch”, they are also required to be subject to document checks by members of the public, who are allowed to see – but not touch – the documents of a working policeman. The police are also required at all times to be wearing a badge.

Two policeman with badges clearly visible


Police Document Checks Occurred Without Conflict

One of the event organisers, Renat Sulemanov spoke with us. Recall that […] on the 29th September, Tomsk residents took part in the Russia-wide action “United Day of Document Checks”.

“There were 16 participants. We split into four groups, and walked around different regions of the town looking for police. It has to be said that finding them was not easy, and so we even went to fixed positions. In the end, 28 police officers were questioned, and they were all showing their badges,” said our source. He also added that all police officers that they met were very friendly and welcoming when talking to the participants in the verification, even when there were no journalists and photographers nearby.

[Note: in Russia, police often have small portacabin-like structures in which they can be “on patrol”. These fixed positions allow officers to take shelter from the elements, but are not exclusively for retreating from inclement weather. A modern version is depicted below, behind the statue.]

One of the fixed positions behind the monument to "Uncle Nick"

“We believe that we carried out the task of the action. The interior minister promised that all badges would be sent to policemen in smaller towns before the 31st July. We have confirmed that the badges have arrived in Tomsk. It is true that three days before today’s action, we made the regional chief of police aware of our plans. In the future, however, we have decided to conduct a similar check without any early warning, because a permit is not required,” concluded Renat Sulemanov.

A policeman shows his documents to an activist inside

Comments from


But seriously, apart from traffic cars, there were no cops to be found. No patrol cars, and what’s more, no beat cops of any sort. They probably trust us. They’re aren’t in control. )


They were hiding, the police, 100%, they were hiding. )) They gave their most polite officers badges and put them in the line of fire, while the rest sat at the police station drinking tea.


Great action to make them see that we’re always watching!!!


The participants in the Leninskiy district were just great! Keep it up! Especially the majority of your photos!!!


I’m proud of our city – both the activists and the police.


And did you check Uncle Nick’s documents??? :)

[Note: Uncle Nick is the familiar name given to Nikolai Putintsev, a monument to whom can be seen in the photos. He was a widely respected and loved traffic policeman. See below comments]


When there’s nothing for the cat to do…

[Note: this is the first part of a Russian saying, “When there’s nothing for the cat to do, he licks his balls”. Its meaning is approximate to the English expression “The devil makes work for idle hands”.]


They didn’t find the police, because a large part of those that they cut were those who should have been out on the streets.

[Note: this is a reference to cuts in the police made by Medvedev’s programme.]


Before, the police checked documents, but now citizens are checking the police’s. The world’s gone mad. [Added after 4 minutes:] In comparison to other regions, the police in Tomsk are pretty friendly.

Артикул: (responding to above)

They’re getting bolder! If you’d tried this 15 years ago) You’d have been queuing to sign up for the proctologist! )


Look at how chubby they are))) Yep, they’re all rosy-cheeked)))

Uncle Nick, a popular and well-respected policeman.

What do you think? If they watch over us, then who watches the watchers?

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