After a rather rocky start in its relationship with the country’s police force, the leftist-led coalition appears to be seeking closer cooperation but without being too obvious about it.
A few days ago, officers told Kathimerini, Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis, entered a police van that was parked outside his ministry and told the men inside that the government was relying on them to do their job, albeit not heavy-handedly.
Since SYRIZA came to power in late January, it signalled that it would not tolerate an overbearing police presence in the capital. One of the government’s first acts was to take down the crush barriers that had guarded the front of Parliament for years. Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis subsequently announced that riot vans would no longer be stationed “at every 100 meters in the capital.” The initiatives appeared to be well received initially. But a string of incidents that followed, including an unprecedented protest by anti-establishment protesters on Parliament’s grounds, the vandalism of walls around the House and a series of sit-ins, including at SYRIZA’s central offices, appear to have prompted a shift in SYRIZA’s thinking on policing.
Police vans have started returning to the center but often with instructions to be as invisible as possible. Police units are being mobilized on days when fears of protests or unrest are high but are instructed to remain at a distance from demonstrators or in a parallel road.
Officers have been asked to discreetly guard the offices of SYRIZA, the party’s newspaper Avgi, the radio station Sto Kokkino, the Culture Ministry and the home of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Ano Kypseli, Kathimerini understands.
“We want to be close to targets but not to be visible,” one police officer said.