In search of a police chief for our troubled times

Experience, ability, a distinguished record but no partisan identity – these are the attributes demanded by the Public Order Ministry for its new chief of the Greek Police (ELAS), to be appointed during promotion procedures that begin on October 6. According to ministry sources, the goal is to have a smooth succession by choosing someone capable of taking over ELAS at what is an opportune moment (after the successful completion of the Olympic Games and the end of domestic terrorism) and to give it an added impetus. The police force has been boosted by the addition of new technical infrastructure, so the new leader must be someone with a vision, and capable of making decisions that will exploit the new technology and know-how to create a new framework for dealing with the challenges ahead. Apart from the successful candidate’s experience, a main factor in the choice of the new chief will be consensus among the political parties. It is likely that in accordance with the practice of recent years, there will be an absence of political criteria in choosing senior police officials. Ministry officials say there will be no major changes at the most senior level, but they will be turning to officers at the level of lieutenant general and major general who have shown their mettle in handling terrorism and the Games and have acquired considerable experience and international recognition in working with foreign services. It is hoped that using people of this caliber will advance the use of innovative procedures. The only new move at this level has been the creation of another post for a lieutenant general by breaking up the General Police Inspectorate into two departments, one each for northern and southern Greece. Major changes are expected at the level of brigadier and police chief, given the pressure that has built up further down the ladder where promotions have been few and far between in recent years, and not many officers have retired. As for specific names, it is early days yet, since to some degree the appointments are the result of a more collective political decision and not simply a matter for the Public Order Ministry. However, the most likely candidates for head of the force are the current Attica police chief, Major General Giorgos Angelakos, and Major General Anastassios Dimoschakis. The top of the ELAS pyramid is also expected to include senior officers who have shown their worth in recent years with specific successes. A major factor here is the willingness of the political leadership to resist pressure from within from officers with a clear party affiliation who believe their hour has come. The last promotions were made in March 2003. This past March the annual promotions were not made due to the parliamentary elections, when there was an understanding between the two major parties to avoid making the promotions an arena for a settling party accounts, either by the outgoing or incoming government. Olympic Games security imperatives also imposed a need for continuity and maintaining an equilibrium. Nevertheless, the coming promotions will mean the end of a cycle for ELAS’s current chief, Lt. Gen. Fotis Nasiakos, who has put his own stamp on the force and linked his name with its greatest success, that of rooting out domestic terrorism and the major challenge of the Olympic Games security project. Nasiakos was made ELAS chief in August 2001, after the failed attempt to arrest the fugitive Costas Passaris, and so took over the force at a time when it was not held in great repute. He will hand over to his successor a completely different state of affairs, as the police force has earned a great deal of recognition and respect. So there will be several challenges for the new police chief, since the bar has been raised considerably. Nasiakos’s successor will be judged on two counts. The first is the expected radical reconstruction of ELAS so it can satisfy the requirements and demands of the times, and the second will be its upgrading on the international stage by means of initiatives and actions in Southeastern Europe and the Balkans. The Public Order Ministry leadership sees Nasiakos as a valuable asset, a person whose experience can be utilized in another post. So he is expected to remain on active duty in the ministry, and in fact is expected to be appointed to an executive post in order to contribute to the further modernization of the force and in dealing with new security challenges. However, he is not expected to be posted to head the National Security Service (EYP), as has been reported.