Protesting police under investigation

The chief of the Greek police ordered a «most urgent» investigation yesterday into Wednesday evening’s protest by police unionists who blocked the entrance to the Economy Ministry in the center of Athens. The investigation, to be conducted by Major-General Nikos Tsirakis, the deputy Attica Police chief, will determine whether demonstrators fell foul of the disciplinary code or even committed violations under criminal law. The protesting policemen, along with firefighters and coast guard personnel, were forcibly removed by teargas-dispensing riot police in the early hours of Thursday, after union leaders had refused the demand by police chief Fotis Nasiakos to leave the ministry’s premises. The Ministry of Public Order charges that some of the protesters also had their weapons with them. Minister Giorgos Floridis on Thursday called their protest a «mutiny by armed forces.» He further charged that they verbally abused two prosecutors who arrived, along with high-ranking police officers, at the site of the protest to tell protesters to disperse. The ministry is considering a total ban on protests by members of security forces or, at the very minimum, forbidding them from wearing their uniforms. «It should be clearly understood that bullying with guns will not be tolerated,» a government member said yesterday. The Greek police are not allowed to strike – in the EU, only Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden allow them to – and protests are staged by off-duty personnel. The protesters’ main demand is for their profession to be recognized as a hazardous occupation, as it is in Germany. Under Greek law, however, this would entitle them to a full pension after only 14 years of service. An alternative demand by police unionists, that they be given a special bonus for hazardous work instead, has also been rejected due to fears that individual petitions through the courts would also earn police personnel the right to early retirement. Police unionists were saying yesterday that they would consider taking the minister and their superiors to court over Thursday’s dispersal of the protest.