The city’s new police officers

The Athens Municipality’s entire police force has been fully deployed since last week, as 464 officers went on duty after months of training, with the mission of boosting residents’ and visitors’ sense of security. The new officers have joined the existing force of 80 officers in carrying out foot patrols, mostly in the three Olympic municipal departments which cover the commercial and historic centers, Kolonaki, Vathis Square, Neos Cosmos, Zappeion, Pangrati, Goudi, Ambelokipi, Ellinoroson, Polygono and Gyzi. As of yesterday, the force was on shifts around the clock, with 300 of the officers on joint patrols with the Greek Police Force. They have received two main instructions – to fight black-market trading and arbitrary extensions of commercial enterprises onto public space. City Hall wants its police to be seen by the people as a «friendly force» who will be giving warnings to violators of municipal laws rather than imposing fines. However, the law will be applied in all cases. After completing their basic training, the new officers have been attending four-day seminars at City Hall and a special course at the Olympic Games Security Department. Most of them are university graduates, many have postgraduate degrees and most know at least one foreign language. Although their powers are not clearly defined, their presence on the streets has been effective. There have been fewer cases of cafe tables illegally placed on sidewalks, and fewer illegal street vendors. The municipality has secured funds for the service’s initial operating costs and infrastructure, including 70 new vehicles. The first three municipal police departments will open before the Games – one in the Police Park, one in the Varvakeio Market and the third in the district of Hymettus. The force has 33 actual powers, but 21 of them are newly instituted, so probably most of the officers do not really know what they are expected to do, what the limits of their authority are and what happens in the event that a crime or violation is committed.

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