athens: protecting and serving whom?

Posted on March 28, 2006


police greek.jpg

photo via fraserspeirs

by melinda elliott

After a string of robberies in the vacation towns of Oropos and Kalamos, the townspeople were furious because the police weren’t doing anything about it. The local police chief dusted off the usual response and claimed that his department was understaffed and therefore, couldn’t handle the 200 or so robberies in the towns. Once the media got hold of the story, the government initiated a police sweep involving 2,000 officers to root out the culprits resulting in the arrests of 6 members of an organized gang responsible for the break-ins along with several hundred other offenders during the questioning of over 14,000 people.

While the arrests were a welcome event to the citizens in the affected areas, a greater issue is evident. The police simply aren’t doing their jobs until the media gets involved and the government becomes embarrassed. The operation and subsequent firing of the two police chiefs was largely seen as a public relations ploy designed to quell the hornet’s nest stirred up by both the media and disgruntled townspeople.

Considering that there are approximately 3,000 police officers serving as bodyguard to VIPs, the Hellenic Police are in no position to complain about being understaffed. These police officers are paid by the taxpayers, not by the celebrities and therefore they should not be allocated to celebrities as a perk just because they recorded a few pop songs. It is nothing short of scandalous that taxpayers are paying for a service from which they do not benefit. Celebrities and rich businessmen are neither employees of the state and therefore, should not be entitled to personal police protection. The practice needs to stop. Police need to be patrolling the neighbourhoods making their presence felt not escorting the rich and almost famous to awards and parties.

Reassigning the police bodyguards back to active police duty is the first step to making the police force more efficient and effective. The police departments need to be computerized and staffed with competent personnel. My husband went to the local police station to apply for a new passport this week and they told him he had to come back on April 11–3 weeks away. He managed to get the date changed due to the intervention of a police acquaintance of ours. As soon as the woman took his passport, the office experienced a blackout and their one and only computer shut down and could not be rebooted. The two women processing the applications used the down time to have a conversation with each other and after a half hour realized that their computer would not magically start working since they didn’t even have a surge protector and they didn’t even know who to call for service. Dozens of people ended up waiting for over 2 hours while their information was written by hand. Experiences like this one are the rule, not the exception.

The Greek taxpayers deserve better service and protection from their police departments not just one-day dog and pony shows to appease the media. Consistent, diligent police work is required on a daily basis to stem the surge in crime rates and time-wasting bureaucracy.

Posted in: athens, politics