President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday ordered reform of the country's Interior Ministry, saying it was a necessary response to police abuses that have angered Russians and eroded public trust in the government.
The move would streamline the ministry's structure and cut the number of police officers by one fifth by the start of 2012, Medvedev said in a decree released by the Kremlin.
It slashes the number of Interior Ministry departments, reduces the number of top police officials in Russian provinces, urges changes in police recruitment rules, and institutes measures to combat police corruption.
"We need sharp and serious changes," Medvedev said in a live interview with heads of three Russian television stations Thursday.
Human rights groups say that Russian police routinely use such methods as trumped-up charges, abuse, blackmail and torture.
Critics accuse the Interior Ministry of creating a system under which financial rewards and police promotions are often based on crime-fighting results that can be easily faked and manipulated.
Russians have also been alarmed by a recent deadly police shooting. In April, a Moscow police precinct chief killed two people and wounded seven others in a shooting spree in a supermarket and on the street outside, according to authorities. His trial has started earlier this week at a Moscow court.