Man on the Street

 The specifics of counselling from the Siberian police  10/11/2013, 16:13

Natasha Pugaeva
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Man on the Street
Photography by Alexandr Bendyukov

Vladislav Rozhnev left the traffic police six years ago and became a district police officer. He doesn’t get bored with his 3,000 charges — Vlad is ready and willing to listen to them. The policeman helped Sib.fm’s correspondents find out what sort of complaints Novosibirsk residents come to the police with.

A girl with a long false ponytail is sitting in front of the young, blue-eyed police officer at police station № 6. A ray of sunshine breaks through the curtains and falls onto a portrait of Dzerzhinsky behind them. Above an old iron safe in a wooden frame — a portrait of a still-young Putin. The office is very stuffy.

3500 people can be registered in one administrative district

Two complaints have been made about the girl. An hour of heartfelt conversation reveals that, in fact, she didn’t assault the man; quite the opposite — she was the victim herself. The evidence: a scratched chin and broken window in her apartment. There’s no point in even talking about the second complaint, about the girls making a lot of noise in the apartment at night — the neighbour’s wife left him and he started to hate everyone.

«So, sunshine,» the police officer affectionately addresses his visitor at the end of the conversation, «An administrative commission will hear the case. On Tuesdays at 2 o’clock. Choose which ever day you like.»

About three thousand people live on Vladislav Rozhnev’s beat. He says that after six years of service, he knows most of them by sight.

Most of all, local drinkers appeal to the police:

«Today, they want to sort each other out, but they’ll have already made up by tomorrow,» says Vlad. «You go and see them and they’re already happy that they haven’t been left without attention.»

«The cases are filed with the court, but people don’t turn up. They really just need to be listened to and get things off their chest.»

«Yesterday, one woman was threatening another one because of a man. Smashed the door a little bit,» says Rozhnev before leaving for a house call.
«The women in your district are dangerous!»
«It’s all about love, isn’t it.»

37 thousand roubles ($1150) is the average monthly salary of a district police officer according to a job search website

The Lada police car stubbornly drives down the snow-covered roads along an endless row of small privately-owned houses.

«It’s easier to work here than in the big apartment buildings,» admits the district officer. «The districts are smaller in big residential complexes, but there are more people. Though the tenants share an entrance to the building for ten years, they don’t know each other. The private sector is a different story — people live together on a really long street for about two years and already know everything about each other.»

We drive up to a house with a blue iron gate. A deaf man and his wife in tracksuit bottoms are standing behind it.

During WW2, Soviet soldiers folded their letters from the front into «military triangles» due to a lack of envelopes — and to allow easy access for the censors

«Your rival wrote a statement yesterday,» Vlad says quietly from the doorway.
«Who? Katya the prostitute?» the woman starts screaming. «She’d better not come back here again, I’ll cut her head straight off with an axe!»
«Now then, come here. I can’t see your rank without my glasses.» she says more quietly, walks up to the policeman and examines his stripes. «Captain!»

Aunty Lida is 63. This isn’t the first time Vlad has seen her in the course of this domestic drama.
«Why do they all run after him then?» the police officer asks in a friendly way.
«Beats the crap out of me!» the woman raises her voice again. «Two women were walking towards me on that day. I don’t know them and don’t want to, then they tell me, „Your man’s gone back to Katya.“ I literally started shaking!

I would have caught her and poured some acid over her, but I’m not very good at chemistry. I wanted to take a battery apart, but it’s no use.»

«Don’t act against your conscience,» Vlad tries to calm her down.
«Will you give her a three year suspended sentence? I’ve read all your bumf. Add it to your form in brackets — Katya (prostitute). Give me the pen!»

It seems that the district police officer’s words will never have an effect on Aunty Lida, but Vlad is sure that’s not the case and that people nonetheless stop to think when they’re under supervision.

A few minutes later, we arrive at «Katya’s» house and examine the letters from Aunty Lida, neatly folded into triangles. She’s asking for 100,000 roubles ($3100) to buy a fur coat in return for «husband rental». Just yesterday, the woman was terribly frightened, but calms down after the policeman’s arrival and tells him that she really did see jealous Lida’s spouse, but it was three years ago.

The peephole in Ekaterina’s front door has been smashed by Aunty Lida’s screwdriver.

«How did you become a district officer?» we inquire on the way to the next house.
«Came to my senses. Was in the traffic police for two years, but I didn’t like it. It’s boring. You stand in the same place, rooted to the spot. And just look at the land here. You need to enjoy your work, my job is interesting now.»
«That side of the street isn’t mine,» Vlad points to a row of houses on the right-hand side of the road.

He doesn’t consider his district to be criminal and everyone there is on first name terms with him. Vlad never leaves official summons either — otherwise, people will get frightened and won’t phone him.

«A note with the words ’Phone the district police officer’ and a number is much more effective: people start to wonder, more often than not they just think that it’s a joke.»

Russia’s only monument to the district police officer is located in the city of Penza

The district officer has to do a lot of paperwork. Vladislav normally deals with it before lunch. Home visits start in the afternoon and continue late into the evening. There can be up to 20 journeys a day.

Vlad intriguingly says that we’re now going to go to a «scary house».

In front of us are two rooms, barely kept warm by a heater. The children were taken into a home a long time ago. A small kitten runs across the dirty floor. The housewife is getting ready to wash clothes in a large dirty tank with hot water.
«What have you been up to now?» Vlad asks the man, at the same time telling him off for the fact he still hasn’t finished putting the stove together.
«Stole a cross from an old lady I know.»
«Well, you’re just like Robin Hood, aren’t you. Come and see me tomorrow to get your reference.»

Next we go to see a man who’s dumped snow in someone else’s garden. Then stop off to see an old lady, whose paroled grandson is going to move in with her soon. We check a hunter’s rifle. Vlad talks to each of them thoroughly and at length, asks about their health, work and hobbies. We go back to the station. A woman in a purple fur hat is sitting by his office — she needs to talk too.

Unhurriedly and with tears in her eyes, she tells Vladislav that today her neighbour’s son threw a stone at her in the communal apartment, that the neighbour herself then started to hit her on the back, that they walk around the apartment in their shoes, and that she has a little grandson: «When we closed the firm, everything went downhill. I have no strength left, my neighbours will kill me one day.»

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in Russian

«There never was a firm. They’ve got their act together now, but six years ago I made them flush their home-brew down the toilet. They were crying, but they poured it out,» says the policeman.

From his tired appearance you wouldn’t say that listening to everyone really is interesting work. To which Vlad replies:

It depends how you look at it. I try to see the good in bad things, otherwise it’d be really hard."

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