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DOWNTOWN : Russian Police Get a Taste of L.A.

April 25, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

They arrived in Los Angeles at the same time as the verdicts in the Rodney G. King federal civil rights trial.

So the 11 visiting police officers from St. Petersburg, Russia, could have easily been mistaken for another contingent of law enforcement officers imported to help in the event of a riot.

But Los Angeles has been calm since the trial ended April 17. And the purpose of the visiting officers is goodwill.

Through an exchange program organized by the Los Angeles-St. Petersburg Sister City Committee and funded by private donors, the officers from the St. Petersburg Militia came to Los Angeles on April 16 for a 10-day tour of the city and its Police Department.

The visiting officers plan to check out everything from a Dodger game to a grocery warehouse, ride along with Los Angeles police officers and be honored at a City Council meeting. Saturday, the Russians scheduled a volleyball match against the Police Department team.

Tuesday morning, the Russian officers met Police Chief Willie Williams and presented him with a fur cap, a Russian police badge, framed photographs of Russia and verbal invitations to visit St. Petersburg.

"After this past weekend (with the King verdicts), I'm looking forward to a little travel," a smiling Williams replied. He added, "The Los Angeles Police Department is opening its doors to you."

The Los Angeles police volleyball team initiated the exchange last October when it traveled to St. Petersburg, which became a Los Angeles sister city in 1990. The 12 officers in the L.A. contingent shared their professional experiences and cultures and played in a volleyball match.

Through the exchanges, the Russian officers have learned about community relations and police technology--law enforcement aspects unfamiliar to them but crucial to Los Angeles police work, said Sgt. Greg Braun, director of the city's exchange program.

The Los Angeles officers even arranged a tour of a grocery store warehouse for the visitors because the food distribution system in Russia is "virtually nonexistent," Braun said. "You've got a country that's literally emerging. We can help them with a lot of things."

Col. Alexander Zibin, head of the Russian delegation and chief of police in the Moskovsky region of St. Petersburg, agreed that his officers have much to learn in terms of using technical equipment, such as computers, in police work. Most of the St. Petersburg Militia's 40,000 officers don't use cars but patrol on foot instead, according to the visitors.

But Russian police officers are generally well-educated, according to Col. Larisa Samarina, the delegation's sole female officer.

Women work in investigation, crime prevention and other administrative and professional services, while men work the streets as patrol and traffic officers, said Samarina, who is chief of investigations for the Kuibishevsky region and one of the highest-ranking women in the militia.

"We work more with the brain and not with the feet," she said of the female officers.

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