By Zulfiya Iskaliyeva
Terms like "arrest" or "detention room" have always been associated with criminals, anti-social personalities, or at least family troublemakers.
Recently, ministry of internal affairs decided to "restart" public mind: besides the accustomed category of people at detention centers police started to catch quite a different group of people - law abiding citizens who happened to throw a cigarette butt on the ground.
Good for police performance report
So, for throwing a stub, a chewing gum or a piece of paper past the trash bin one may end up in jail.
...A young townsman named Artur took his car from maintenance late evening. He would go to work next morning, but his vehicle was too dirty after repair.
Artur thought to wipe off the dust from the car hood for one thing - once he finished two patrol officers approached.
As the result, the young man spent a night in police department and was released at dawn to go and pay the fine. He thinks he came off cheap. When his case was being registered in the police station he saw there another guy who had thrown a cigarette on the ground, for that they put him in jail for a few days.
"I managed to call home and warn my family. I had no ID with me - police officers needed my name only and checked it through their database. When you are there you feel yourself rightless at once - my request to get my papers done more quickly brought threats to me - "if you talk much we will write yours after others are finished". There was a crowd before me - among them were many drunken men who could hardly name themselves holding back the queue," recalls Artur.
There are many such stories.
Last year, during a meeting to modernize Astana, Kazakhstan's capital, President Nursultan Nazarbayev demanded stricter punishment for minor offences:
"We should miss not a single minor crime in the city. If they stick a chewing gum to walls, catch them, fix the crime, take their fingerprints, compile protocols. Get them punished, fine them and put in jail for three days! Catch all petty offenders in the streets, so they know they will be punished. That's how the order will be established - then big crimes won't happen," he said in his quite emotionally expressed instruction to the metropolitan police.
Ever since that day a kind of police competition is on - who will catch more people for throwing stubs and husking sunflower seeds in the street? Given this, they tend not only to fine a person, but put him under administrative detention.
As a judicial system official said in informal conversation there is not a word in laws saying a fine is enough for the first detention, moreover, most of the detained have no money. So it's better to just arrest them, at least that's good for police performance reports:
"As far as I know, by the detained vs. population ratio - Atyrau Oblast is ahead of other provinces in Kazakhstan now."
Everyman is concerned about the fact that law abiding people who committed minor mistakes are put behind bars instead of receiving a verbal warning or an administrative penalty. Why put in jail at once?
"My husband and son-in-law were arrested for three days for throwing their cigarette stubs on the ground. By the way, there are no trash cans in front of our apartment block. No requests and explanations had effect on the officers. My son-in-law even picked the stubs up and put them into his cigarette pack. My husband refused to go to police station with the officers and demanded that they show him evidence - they had no video of him throwing the stub and the police officers may not be witnesses. In response they were threatened they would be given 15 days in jail for resistance. To luck the two were sober - rumors say those who have drunken a can of beer are taken to jail at once and given 5 to 10 days. Anyway, they had to go to station and came back after 3 days," explains Nurgul, an Atyrau resident.
According to the judge of specialized administrative court of Atyrau, Renat Aldamzharov, following the famous presidential speech, the number of materials on such cases has sharply increased.
Everyday, he and his colleagues review 10-15 similar cases. Mostly, people are apprehended for throwing cigarette stabs or sunflower seeds past trash bins and, pardon, for urinating in undesignated places.
Sometimes, people try to deny their guilt demanding video evidence. However, the greater part of them admit to their fault.
Offenders are kept overnight in police stations and sent to court next morning. As the judge said police is rightful to keep people in for up to 72 hours until the circumstances are clarified.
Why don't judges just issue a penalty for those with clean criminal history?
"So that adult people understand how important to observe laws and public order is. On this point, arrest is a very effective measure."
If approached by patrol police...
A patrol officer should be polite and delicate when dealing with citizens; explain his remarks and formal requests understandably; avoid and prevent actions or disputes that may harm their honor and dignity. In dialogue with citizens, police officers should demonstrate self-possessedness and tranquility; never be rude in response to rudeness.
If a violator responds emotionally to the remarks received, he or she should be given time to calm down and allowed to explain why he or she thinks the arrest is unlawful and be explained his or her guilt with a reference to appropriate laws or other legal acts.
Providing all the above are in place, a decision whether to compile a protocol or to transfer the person to the police station or to make a verbal warning may be made.
Police officer must ensure that accompanying children do not hear remarks addressed to their parent.
Police officer should talk to teenagers as politely as he should with adults.
Being aware of these basic norms will always be useful if a patrol unit approaches you and suggests going to a nearby police station. And the most important tip - never give a reason to such an encounter.