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Russian Police Chief’s Top Aide Arrested on Corruption Charges

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Three Russian police generals, including an assistant to the country’s Interior Minister, have been detained on charges of misappropriating funds, Russian law enforcement announced Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Sergei Umnov and two senior colleagues — Major General Alexei Semyonov, head of St. Petersburg’s traffic police, and Major General Ivan Abakumov — are accused of embezzling money from the Program Assistance Fund for the St. Petersburg and Leningrad region’s Main Department of Internal Affairs between 2016 and 2020.

Umnov headed the Interior Ministry’s St. Petersburg branch between 2012 and 2019, when President Vladimir Putin appointed him as an assistant to Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev. 

Kolokoltsev has not yet commented on the arrest.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, opened a criminal case into the men on allegations of grave abuse of office in July 2020, the Kommersant business daily reported.

If found guilty of the charges, the men face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Abakumov previously faced imprisonment in 2021 for allegedly forging his sick leave, but judges dismissed his case after the statute of limitations expired, Kommersant reported.

Officials accused two other Interior Ministry major generals of abuse of power in the same year, although Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office refused to indict the officers citing insufficient evidence, the newspaper said.


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Anti-corruption groups can bank on video activism, says pioneer

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The withdrawal of the ban on photography and videography inside government offices is a strong vindication of video activism, says anti-corruption campaigner Ravi Krishna Reddy.

Lancha Mukta Karnataka Nirmana Vedike, a forum to build a bribe-free Karnataka, of which Reddy is the founder and former president, pioneered video activism in 2016.

He later founded the political party Karnataka Rashtra Samithi, which also adopted the method in 2019.

Teams from these outfits conduct ‘social audits’ and record lapses in the functioning of public offices.

They live stream and upload the footage on social media, often catching officials behaving insolently towards citizens. They use a checklist with 22 questions to see if an office is citizen-friendly.

“We are entering the 75th year of Independence and we have an elected government issue a ban as draconian as this. No IPC or CrPC section deems the act of clicking photos or videos in government offices illegal,” Reddy told Metrolife.


Ravi Krishna Reddy

How it began

Reddy mooted video activism after he realised citizens could wield their smartphone cameras just as news media use professional cameras to speak truth to power. Reddy was formerly a software professional, and ran a Kannada weekly, Vikranta Karnataka, for some years.

His party has conducted social audits in more than 150 taluks, spanning 250 offices of sub-registrars, tahsildars, municipal corporations, gram panchayats, and even police stations. “On an average, all of our videos get 10 million views across Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp every month,” says Reddy.

He cited a recent success story: “In BTM Layout, D-group employees and SDAs (second division assistants) were charging Rs 500 to issue death certificates when the fee was just Rs 5. Even when they were paid the unfair amount, they did not hand over the certificate to the family on schedule. Because of our intervention, they confessed to taking bribe on camera and returned the amount. They were later suspended.”

Their past campaigns, he says, have resulted in government offices displaying the name and designation of employees on the desk, ensuring employees wear ID badges on duty, and providing seating, drinking water and toilets for visitors.

“We have live streamed from police stations when they refused to register a case or they manhandled the complainants,” he adds.

Such ‘video reporting’ comes with its own hazards. He illustrates: “Six or seven cases have been booked against me by government officials who felt we were obstructing their work.” Once, he claims, government officials from the Pandavapura taluk office attacked volunteers. “We filed a case against them. We see it as an occupational hazard, and also as a freedom struggle against corruption,” he says.

Never have volunteers used unparliamentary words in government offices nor have they physically threatened anyone, he says. 

What happened

On July 15, Karnataka government prohibited citizens from taking photographs or capturing videos in public offices without the permission of employees. The order was a response to a petition from the Karnataka State Government Employees Association, which alleged that government employees were being harassed by those who shot videos in their offices. Following citizen outrage on social media, the order was rolled back overnight.

What the law says…

Bengaluru-based advocate Sharan B Tadahal says there is no law that prohibits the use of cameras inside government offices. However, what amounts to obstruction of duty is a subjective matter and would differ from case to case. Electronic evidence is admissible in a court of law as long as it complies with Section 65 B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. This may require you to prove the source of the photo or video, cite the IP address, and file an affidavit, he told Metrolife.


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Bloomington and Normal police departments sign onto initiative aimed at hiring more women

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In retrospect, the trajectory of Heather Hansen’s career follows an order that makes a conclusion in law enforcement seem logical, perhaps even preplanned.

A former corrections officer at a juvenile detention facility, then a probation officer and eventually a 9-1-1 dispatcher, Hansen’s transition to an Illinois State Police trooper in the mid-1990s makes sense now, but in those days it was never part of her plan, or her overall end goal.

But the day that a “female trooper — very petite, very feminine and very kind” walked into the police department where Hansen worked as a dispatcher changed everything.

ISP Lt. Heather Hansen

“It was the first time I saw anyone that looked like me in a uniform, doing that job,” Hansen recalls.

Twenty-seven years later, Hansen is a patrol lieutenant and operations officer for ISP’s District 16 in the northernmost part of Illinois. Hansen has stayed with the state police — and on the road — for nearly 30 years out of both a love for the job and self-imposed sense of responsibility to bring women up with her into a profession that has long been dominated by men.

“I want little girls and young women and college women and working mothers to see me — and I want them to join me,” Hansen said.

The product of a national coalition of police leadership, researchers and professional organizations, the 30×30 Initiative is aimed at encouraging police departments across the country to have 30% percent of their recruits be women by the year 2030.

Certainly, things have changed somewhat in Hansen’s 27 years, including the addition of “other women, women of color and gay women” onto the state police force, but statistics as of March show that just 9% of ISP troopers are female, with 91% male.

And that’s not a disparity unique to Illinois State Police, or local departments. It’s a nationwide disparity, evidenced in data collected by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Nationally, just 12% of all full-time law enforcement officers are women, a threshold breached in the mid-200s that has not spiked significantly since.

The 30×30 Initiative aims to change that disparity.

‘We’re 50% of the population. We should be at least 50% of the number of law enforcement officers’

Since its formal launch, nearly 200 agencies have “taken the pledge,” which involves working with 30×30 leaders and agreeing to terms of engagement.

Nine agencies in Illinois have joined the initiative, including Bloomington and Normal police departments, as well as the Illinois State Police.

It’s “vitally important for people to come together with a loud and passionate voice about the need for women to be in the profession,” National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives director Kym Craven told WGLT. “We’re 50% of the population. We should be at least 50% of the number of law enforcement officers.”

Kym Craven

National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives

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Like Hansen in Illinois, Craven spent around 30 years directly in law enforcement. She worked for a local police agency in Massachusetts in various departments, including traffic safety and community engagement, before branching out into consultant work and eventually becoming the head of NAWLEE, an agency dedicated to mentoring women in law enforcement and encouraging them to pursue leadership roles.

Craven said her passion for advocating for women in policing is a result of a gradual realization that things “weren’t fair,” despite an initial assumption that they would be.

“I didn’t necessarily question the limited amount of women in law enforcement in the way that I do today. I just took it at face value, like, ‘Oh. There’s not a lot of women,’” Craven said. “I came into it thinking that everyone would be on the same playing field.”

As her career continued, however, Craven said she watched male officers band together or separate themselves in a way in which she couldn’t participate: They would play golf together, play on softball teams together and Craven, not inclined to either sport and not inclined to push for personal inclusion, did not “press on to say, ‘Oh, I need to be a part of that.’”

“What I see today is that it wasn’t fair. Now that I can really reflect on the numbers, I can say women just don’t have the same opportunities as men in law enforcement,” she said. “We have to do more to open those doors, to get women career-ready as recruits and get them to stick with the profession.”

From her seat as NAWLEE’s executive director, Craven said the 30×30 Initiative is “one of the most significant national strategies that has been rolled out in years” to address the lack of women in the profession, though there have been others with a more regional or targeted focus.

Participating agencies will have monthly meetings with 30×30 Initiative leaders, meetings with other agencies to talk best practices and recruitment strategies, as well as be part of research aimed at further studying women in policing, a topic of research that does exist but historically has not been “well-funded,” according to Craven.

“I think some of the other softer changes, if you will, that aren’t 100% qualitative might be the perceptions of folks in the focus groups and listening sessions,” she said. “We’ll work with the raw data for the quantitative pieces of it that can be measured, like how many agencies actually met the overall goal of 30% by 2030, but it’s just as important for us to have reports back about if the culture in these agencies has changed over time as well.”

Culture is a key aspect of the 30×30 Initiative. According to its About section, the 30% goal was chosen based on research that indicates if a group within an institution reaches 30% of representation, that’s enough to influence the entire institution’s culture.

Additional research touted by the 30×30 Initiative argues that women in policing do change the culture of that work — and for the better.

‘The culture will change when the philosophies of the individuals in the culture change’

Cara Rabe-Hemp, an associate dean at Illinois State University’s College of Applied Sciences and Technology, has been studying the experiences of women in policing for about 15 years — ever since a retiring female officer with a decorated career told her during an interview for a graduate school project that “policing was a bit of a boys’ club.”

Intrigued, Rabe-Habe began studying those experiences not long after. Among other things, she published “Thriving in an All Boys Club: Female Police and Their Fight for Equality” in 2018.

“There are two theoretical arguments for how women impact police departments. The first is just by having diversity of thought,” she said in an interview. “If you look at the history of policing over the last 100 years, there hasn’t been a lot of change or diversity in thought surrounding policing. What we see women being a mechanism for is challenging the ways things have kind of always been done … based on their socialization experiences.”

While there aren’t a surplus of examples to study, Rabe-Hemp said studies of law enforcement agencies that do have female leadership or “greater female representation” show those departments tend to have “more innovative recruitment and retention policies, establishment of family medical leave or maternity policies and more inclusive leadership styles.”

An example of this that Rabe-Hemp included in her book played out within Twin Cities in the not-too-distant-past.

Ivy Thornton accepted a job with the Bloomington Police Department in 2002.

Sgt. Ivy Thornton

Bloomington Police Department

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Now a sergeant and the only woman with a supervisory role in that agency, Thornton said she encountered a potentially career-ending decision within her first few years on the job.

In 2004, she was assigned light duty work when she was pregnant with her first child. For whatever reason, when she became pregnant with her second child in 2005, she wasn’t given that option.

“It was: Take family leave, which is 12 weeks unpaid and which we all know a pregnancy is (around) 40 weeks. Quit, or work pregnant. Those were the options. So I didn’t quite like that,” Thornton said in an interview.

But instead of quitting, Thornton took action, eventually connecting with state Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) and kickstarting legislation passed in 2008 that made it a civil rights violation to not offer light duty for pregnant police or firefighters. It took three years for that legislation to pass, so it had no bearing on Thornton, but she has no regrets about following it through, she said, because it’s bigger than her.

“I felt really good, even though I couldn’t benefit from it. It was the right thing to do. I’m OK with standing by myself — even if I’m the only one standing in my convictions,” she said. “I caught a lot of flack for that. There were a lot of people that looked at the situation, saying, ‘Well, maybe if you were nicer or you just asked nicely.’ I did ask. There was just nothing.”

That someone had to work from the inside of the system in order to change it is consistent with the way that policing works, according to Howard Henderson, executive director of The Center for Justice Research, which describes itself as a data-driven organization aimed at making the criminal justice system more equitable.

Howard Henderson

Texas Southern University

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“The policing culture is a closed network and it operates as if it’s a private corporation. It’s very difficult to change that from the outside,” Henderson said. “It’s going to require some ability to infiltrate the network to make those changes — and it is slowly changing. I think the more we diversify the network, the better off we’re going to be.”

Henderson said his organization has been among those studying various data sets that relate to law enforcement and has noted “quantifiable differences in the manner in which women address policing and men address policing.” That includes use of force data, in which the set CJR reviewed found “rarely do we find a female officer involved.”

Henderson clarified the research is not being used to say that one gender or sex is better at policing than other. Instead, socialization differences make the determination, as does a willingness to conform to what American society is beginning to expect of its law enforcement.

“That push for more women, less aggressive policing, more respectful policing — all of this is in connection together. I don’t want you to see them as disconnected: They’re all part of the same paradigm shift, which is the expectation that policing will be fair, just and respectful of people,” he said. “The culture will change when the philosophies of the individuals in the culture change.”

But to change the culture, change agents must be a part of that culture, and that’s where the profession continues to struggle to this day, regardless of whether the topic is men or women.

“Fifteen years is a long time, but if you flashback to 15 years ago, we would get like 600 (applications to be a police officer),” said BPD public information officer Brandt Parsley. “For the past five or six years, if we get 100 applicants, that’s a lot.”

Craven said NAWLEE research indicates the “current generation of law enforcement” sees local jobs as “stepping stones” to a career at the federal level, leading to issues with retainment. In other cases, people retire earlier than they used to. Still yet, mental health concerns and a lessened interest in the profession in the wake of deserved and heightened public scrutiny has also contributed to a shrinking pool of aspiring law enforcement officers.

“There’s just a multitude of different factors that are pressing on the recruitment and retention issues that we’re seeing today — it’s not one single thing,” she said.

Henderson views the hiring of more women as a way to restore public trust in law enforcement and a belief in its “legitimacy.”

“Women have been shown to be counter to corruption by helping to break up these networks that operate in collusion and dismantle it from the inside,” he said. “I think women will help create a more equitable criminal justice system because they’ll deal with the balance that needs to be there.”

And if there are gains made in at least gender diversity among various police agencies, Parsley said it may help them recruit a more balanced roster.

“People naturally gravitate toward a group. We’re wanting desperately and desperately trying everything we can think of to get people of differing backgrounds, but it’s really hard when you don’t have those people already (on-staff),” he said.

For Thornton, and perhaps other women hired into the profession, the idea that the women in policing was a bit of an anomaly only served to pique her interest in the profession even further. She’d known that she wanted to “do this job to make a difference,” and ran into suggestions for office work, but took her shot at becoming either a firefighter or police officer anyway.

“I didn’t like being told no, I couldn’t do something. When you’re told, ‘You can’t do that,’ or ‘No, there aren’t women in that field,’ then it kind of just motivates you to do more in that field,” she said.

But not everyone is like that — and nor should that be the baseline for interest in a profession. Rabe-Hemp said measuring the success of the 30×30 Initiative, as well as any other diversity gains made in policing overall, will not just look at whether more women sign up to be officers, but whether they stay in the field and rise in the ranks.

“What has to happen is these agencies, when faced with this diversity of thought or these changes, need to reconsider recruitment practices with an eye toward shaking things up,” she said. “My personal thought is that we need to move beyond the celebration of single-hires over time. There needs to be greater opportunities for women in leadership, which could signal reform in policing and diversity of thought.”

Thornton, too, hopes for that kind of mentorship and propulsion of qualified women candidates to leadership — something she said she doesn’t feel she saw enough of during her tenure.

“There are women that we’ve got here for five years, six years, three years — those are the ones you need to be motivating and mentoring, like, ‘Hey, you can do this. We want you here.’ I really hope that is done.”




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Dominican Republic Struggles to Curb Rampant Sex Trafficking

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The dismantling of a large transnational human trafficking network in the Dominican Republic has revealed how dozens of women from Colombia and Venezuela continue to be lured to the island before being forced into sexual labor.

This week, over 16 people, including active police and former military personnel, have been charged with running a sex trafficking network, which exploited at least 80 Venezuelan and Colombian women.

The women, all between 18 and 23 years old, were recruited in their home countries with offers to work as waitresses in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic’s most significant tourist resort town. But once in the country, they were told they had to pay off debts of between $3,000-4,000 and forced into prostitution.

SEE ALSO: Police Reform Top Concern for New Dominican Republic President

The network offered the women to clients through catalogs promoted through messaging services such as WhatsApp, according to the country’s special prosecutor against human trafficking (Procuraduría Especializada Contra el Tráfico Ilícito de Migrantes y la Trata de Personas – PETT). Clients would pay hundreds of dollars for a night and would often be brought to the women by local children. Half the money would go to the traffickers and the other half toward paying off the debt, according to the Dominican newspaper Diario Libre. However, this debt was difficult to pay off entirely as the women would be forced to consume alcohol and drugs, the cost of which was arbitrarily added to what they owed.

If the women refused to cooperate, they were told they would be turned over to authorities or that their families back home would be harmed.

The Dominican Republic’s idyllic beaches attract millions of people every year, making it the most popular destination in the Caribbean. It is, however, also a major destination for sex tourists, primarily from North America and Europe.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Dominican authorities are trying to increase their fight against sex trafficking, these efforts are undermined by corrupt officials who facilitate such networks.

In Operation Cattleya, as the investigation is known, authorities rescued more victims of sex trafficking than they did in all of 2021, when just 29 victims were identified. In 2020, this number was 82.

Nonetheless, the Dominican Republic “does not fully meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so,” according to the US State Department’s 2022 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report. The country was placed at Tier 2 on the report’s three-tier ranking.

A significant issue in combatting such networks is the involvement of security forces. A police sergeant was in charge of promoting the Cattleya network, and former military was also indicted, although it is unclear what their exact roles were.

The soldiers were in charge of moving the victims from place to place to avoid scrutiny, according to Diario Libre, citing the indictment.

“Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year,” the TIP report concluded. Police complicity is involved in child sex trafficking, the report also stated.

SEE ALSO: Child Trafficking Thrives Along Haitian-Dominican Border

Operation Cattleya furthermore illustrates how tourism businesses often facilitate human trafficking operations. The women were held at the Coco Real Residency in Punta Cana and Hotel Caribe in Santo Domingo, according to the PETT.

Also, the fact that the women were offered to clients online through social networks and messaging services like WhatsApp makes the job of authorities even harder.

Before the pandemic, the services of trafficked women were often offered in bars or on city streets. During the pandemic this all moved online, becoming less visible to authorities. While COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are no longer in place in the Dominican Republic, staying online allows traffickers to reach a larger audience and lowers the risk of getting caught.

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