An Interview With Men Behind The Association of Russian-speaking Policemen of New York
From New Russian Word
April 19, 2004


By Oleg Soulkin

In April 2004 Oleg Soulkin a correspondent from the Russian language newspaper "New Russian Word" interviewed Gennadiy Ladizhinsky the president of "The Association of Russian-speaking Policemen of New York" and the press-secretary of this association Leonid Rashkovsky in a program of a Russian radio station "People's Wave". Here is an excerpt of a transcript.

[Translation Note: The newspaper didn't make a distinction on who was talking. However at the beginning of the article the correspondent mentioned that the press secretary spoke more and in Russian and as the president, who is not fluent in Russian, he mainly made some additions and always in English.]

When did your foundation originate and why?

The Association is a non-profit organization that was founded a few months ago, specifically in December of 2003. Gennadiy and I have been working for the Police Department for a number of years - it was my seventh year, Gennadiy joined almost a decade ago. It is a new policy for the NYPD and other public agencies to hire Russian men and women. Our members work in federal, state and local crime prevention depts. At present the Association consists of 70 people with 50-55 of them working in various law enforcement agencies.

Do you mean the authorities like the FBI?

Yes.

So, the name "Association of Policemen" is not 100 percent correct? The term "policeman" in English means an officer of any armed force.

You mentioned the number - 70 members. How did you meet these people? Do you distribute brochures? Maybe they come independently saying: "I'm of Russian origin, came to work in the Police Department and want to become a member of your organization?"

It all started with only six people. Every one of us knew a few Russian guys, working in the same sphere. Later we were mentioned in the newspapers and on the radio. People started to pass our information and ask questions. As for me, I always give our e-mail address russiancops@aol.com. Those who were interested got more involved and our membership pool began to increase.

It is obvious that questions of crime worry all residents of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and other boroughs where our former fellow countrymen dwell. How would you identify the role of your Association in increasing the effectiveness of fighting crime in these areas?

First of all let me emphasize that today we are representing our organization and not the Police Department. Our mission is to help increase the number of Russian-speaking cops in the NYPD. There are always cases when our members are called to translate for investigations and talk to victims who speak only Russian. On the one hand, we volunteer with numerous public organizations in the effort to bring understanding of needs of Russian-speaking communities among New York City cops. On the other hand, we educate the public about the mission and essence of American police.

Why is there such a low number of Russian men and women working in the police? How would you explain this phenomenon?

It's probable that being a police officer is not very popular among our former countrymen. The pay is low - the beginner's salary for the first five years of service is only $32,000 a year. Of course, we can earn more with overtime and night shifts. But it is merely what college graduates deserve. Furthermore, some Russians still believe in the stereotypes of the Soviet system: working in the militia is not the most glamorous profession. I would say these are the two main reasons why our girls and boys don't find it attractive.

There is another point of view, however, which says that the Police Department officials don't encourage the hiring of Russians on the belief that they are more susceptible to corruption, especially in the areas of high concentration of Russian-speaking population. They consider Russian policemen less strict and tough, and that they can be easily talked into taking a bribe. Is that so?

Frankly, I haven't heard of this opinion. I don't think Russian policemen are easily influenced. I have worked in Russian communities and I did not care who to deal with Russians or people of other ethnicities.

Let's talk about the distribution of police officers in the city as whole. Say if we take a district with a concentration of Spanish or Chinese speaking populations, who will NYPD supervisors prefer to send to these assignments: those who speak the language or complete aliens to this foreign culture?

When there a need for policing, nobody pays attention to any languages other than English that staff speak. The distribution of field assignments happens independently from skin color, language or ethnical background.

So, you think that it's not necessary in a Chinese neighborhood to have a person who understands the language and the subtle behaviors of this ethnicity?

Frankly speaking, I don't know. Those making decisions on these types of issues are many ranks higher than me. But as far as I see there is no such dependency.

...

Would you say that there is more criminal activity in Russian communities, than in other districts?

It depends on what to use for the comparison.

Let's say we have to consider areas of high concentration of Russian population in Brooklyn and areas where Italian-Americans or African-Americans, or Hispanics live. I would say that there is less crime in Russian neighborhoods.

Did it become harder to work after 9/11? What has changed in your routine?

It became harder in the sense that we acquired new responsibilities. Now we have to fight crime and resist terrorism at the same time. Sometimes people don't break the law but act suspiciously. For example, somebody leaves a bag on the subway station or on the train. Before September 11th, we didn't think of it as hazardous, and now the first thing that comes to mind is a hidden bomb.

Is there the notorious Russian mafia in New York and have you encountered it in your work as a policeman?

Yes, a few people gather together to commit a crime in an effort to make money.

Is the size necessary?

If they commit a crime the size of a monetary reward doesn't matter. A crime is a crime. Organized criminal activity among Russians does exist. But Russian mafia is not as hierarchical and disciplinary as, for example, Italian mafia.

Speaking about Russian mafia, do you have most of its bosses in jails or they are still free?

We know for sure who spends their sentences in jails, but we might not know every criminal who is free.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Translated from Russian by Natalya Calhoun

Back to The Citizen Page

 

This website is brought to you by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Independence Community Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Times Foundation and visitors like you.