Slow progress in policing the police

The Internal Affairs Service which was set up in 1999 to crack down on corruption in the police force has dealt with some 300 cases that were referred to it since then, resulting in charges in 180 instances. But only eight of these cases have come to trial, according to an annual report presented to the relevant parliamentary committee yesterday. Six officers have been convicted and two others acquitted. The service’s head, Vassilis Siatouras, told the committee that the 180 charges – a quarter of them criminal in nature – have been made against 48 senior officers, 52 junior officers and 49 from the lower ranks. The number of charges is expected to rise to 200 as more cases are processed. Replying to questions from deputies, Siatouras admitted that as hearings are delayed, witnesses often back down. In comparison with 2000, there was a reduction in the number of accusations made against officers last year, although the actual number of officers arrested had doubled. «Officers’ poor treatment of citizens is easily characterized as corruption. However that is not the case. I cannot say whether money is behind (the crimes). It is more likely a question of character and conscience,» said Siatouras. Asked whether the reduction in accusations has been due to the public’s disappointment in the process, Siatouras replied that this could be a factor but that there were also no longer any malicious or unfounded claims. In a heated exchange with Siatouras, New Democracy deputy I. Yiannakopoulos expressed the belief that most police crimes are never revealed and that omission in reporting them is just as serious as actual offenses.