Presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan on October 30 will mark the first time in post-Soviet Central Asia’s history that there is a peaceful and willing handover of power from one leader to another.
Once the election is over with, civil society activists hope to restart a program that aims to transform the way police officers approach their work. The initiative – if it can be expanded – could potentially boost Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to shed its Soviet legacy.
The program, so far limited to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, is dubbed “Bezopasnaya Doroga,” or Safe Road. It strives to get law-enforcement officers to engage in neighborhood policing: instead of serving a shift at one precinct in the capital, law enforcement officers are given 10 liters of gas and sent out to drive around the city, ticket traffic violators, and respond to emergencies. Cops are expected to interact as “social partners” with citizens, just as much as they are expected to fulfill the traditional duties of law-enforcement officers on patrol.
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Erica Marat is a commentator on Central Asian affairs.