Rural Police recruited

The government announced yesterday it will bring back into action the country’s Rural Police, after disbanding the force almost 15 years ago, in a move it says will help protect the country’s shrinking forest areas. By using the term «ecological police,» Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said the rural law enforcement officers will be in place to help protect forests from fires by the end of the month. «In an initial phase, the Rural Police will operate with basic training as the regular training of three weeks will take place at the end of fire danger season,» said the minister without clarifying what the basic training will involve. The government will initially rush out a force of 1,000 rural police officers who will also be appointed the task of protecting forests from illegal building activity and general protection of the environment. «Our aim is for this force to be a force with a social and ecological contribution,» added Polydoras. The conservative government will hope to use the force as a way of taking a more proactive role in its attempt to restore forest areas and protect the environment. The Public Order Ministry, which is in charge of firefighting operations, has been accused of poorly coordinating efforts to put out the thousands of fires that have been burning across Greece so far this summer. Plans to bring back the Rural Police had initially been drawn up by the ministry more than two years ago but had since been shelved, according to sources. PASOK described the decision as serving the political interests of the conservatives as national elections approach and said it is a waste of human resources. PASOK said the government has not yet moved ahead with the hiring of additional firefighters and forest rangers as previously announced. A meeting held by KYSEA (the Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense) yesterday decided to appoint retired Lieutenant General Dimitris Nikolakopoulos as head of the Rural Police.