Police force to get new recruits, shakeup

Almost 250 new police recruits were placed on duty in central Athens on Monday as part of an effort to revamp the way the force operates, which will include adjustments to its two motorcycle-riding squads, DIAS and Delta.

Police chiefs were prompted to take action after a group of about 30 people firebombed the precinct in the central Athens neighborhood of Exarchia on Saturday, leading to three bystanders being injured. The slow reaction of the DIAS and Delta squads drew criticism and came just days after Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutisis had raised questions about the police?s ?frontline? forces when a protester was seriously hurt at an anti-austerity protest.

Papoutsis softened his stance on Sunday, praising the police for their ?superhuman? effort, but the heads of the force had already begun to ring the changes.

Of some 500 new recruits that joined active service yesterday, 245 were put on duty at the downtown precincts of Aghios Panteleimonas, Omonia, Ambelokipi, Syntagma, Acropolis and Exarchia.

Police chiefs have also decided to make clear distinctions between the duties of the DIAS and Delta squads. So, the 310 Delta officers will concentrate on preventing attacks from self-styled anarchists and extreme right-wing groups while 590 DIAS officers will focus on combating other crimes.

In another crucial change, the forces will no longer take their instructions from a central command and will each have their own dispatch center. Attica will be divided into 39 sectors, which will be patrolled by 39 DIAS and 10 Delta units during each shift. Police chiefs hope that six units, totaling 24 officers, will be able to respond to calls for help within a few minutes at the most.

Their main area of focus will be between Patission Street, near where a man was stabbed to death last week during an apparent mugging, and the Kifissos River, and between Kypseli and Kallithea.

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