Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded with a statement, which we are more than happy to publish in full.
Georgian Police: Model for Successful Transformation
The article published on [Boing Boing on] January 12, 2012, about the initiative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to introduce new portable field computers (so called "Police Pads") ends with an anonymous quote declaring that "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and Russian gambling services."
Stereotypes like this are easy to toss out—but are quite simply incorrect. This quote does not reflect the productivity, effectiveness, transparency, and reliability of the police force in Georgia today, but rather the bygone era of the 1990s, a reality that has drastically changed thanks to an ambitious and successful reform process.
The reform process in Georgia began immediately after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new government inherited a completely corrupt and bloated law-enforcement system. The systemic corruption and the high level of crime throughout the country resulted in a very low level of public trust: fewer than 10% of Georgians had confidence in the police, according to 2003 polls. And the very low average policeman's salary (approximately $68 per month) made the soliciting of bribes routine.
Georgia has since made the creation of an efficient and modern police force a national priority, undertaking a series of reforms that sought to rebuild the national police force literally from the ground up. The entire national police force was fired, and a new force hired, trained and deployed with the aim of meeting the highest international standards of professionalism.
These reforms are widely regarded as an unqualified success. Having reduced corruption and bribe taking to levels comparable to those in Europe, the police in Georgia have earned the trust and respect of the public they serve:
•According to Transparency International's latest Global Corruption Barometer, in terms of public perception Georgia has the world's 5th least-corrupt police force, placing it ahead of Germany or even the United States;
•According to the survey conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in November 2011, 87% of population have confidence in Police;
•According to a survey funded by the EU and conducted by GORBI Institute in 2011, Georgia has one of the lowest "victimization coefficients," a measure that reflects public perceptions of crime and individual security.
On the subject of the so-called "Police Pads," reforms have transformed what was once an antiquated backlog of paper files for car imports, registries, and customs. They have been replaced with new, cutting-edge technology capable of streamlining requests and filing paperwork in record time.
Georgia has much work to do in shaking off the vestiges of nearly a century of Soviet occupation, but the transformation of our police force into a modern and professional service is an achievement that Georgians are deeply proud of, and a symbol of our commitment to retake our rightful place in the European community.
January 16, 2012
Press Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia
Photo: An employee demonstrates a "Police Pad" at the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, on January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers, equipped with features that will assist them with their work, assembled at this factory, according to local media.