NEWS

Too many police bodyguards

Although police stations are often understaffed to the point of limited effectiveness, some 3,000 officers are still assigned to guard former cabinet ministers, journalists, businessmen and even television presenters, according to sources quoted in yesterday’s Kathimerini. The total police force in Attica – where 75 percent of all criminal acts carried out in Greece are committed – numbers 20,000 officers. Out of these, an estimated 6,000 policemen have been assigned duties of guarding potential crime or terrorism targets. About half of these officers guard foreign embassies, public buildings, banks and foreign companies. This leaves another 3,000 policemen responsible for looking after former ministers or members of Parliament, businessmen, bankers, as well as several varieties of minor celebrities who could very well afford their own private security. And while it is reasonable to provide some kind of protection for politicians – each MP is entitled to two police guards – it is hard to understand why a certain former minister should require 17 guards, as sources told Kathimerini. The same sources said that Middle Eastern businessman George Halak – a close friend and funder of former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou – has been assigned five police guards. In many instances, officers who are supposed to be guarding potential crime or terrorism targets end up working as unpaid servants for the people in question, running errands, driving them to functions or taking their children to school. Meanwhile, last week traffic police were unable to raise enough officers to untangle huge traffic jams that had built up where the new Athens Hymettus highway meets the Kareas road.