Getting tough on wayward officers

A new presidential decree envisages tougher penalties for policemen found guilty of misbehavior or brutality, it was revealed yesterday as an officer in Thessaloniki was arrested for riding a stolen motorbike. The new disciplinary framework, outlined in the decree, is to be adopted over the next month, police said yesterday. Changes include the creation of a new disciplinary council to hear cases within five days of charges being finalized. Also the time limit for internal investigations will be restricted to two months, with an extension only possible following approval by a senior officer. Violations that have so far been punished with a fine will henceforth be punished with the suspension of the officer in question. Similarly, those violations that have up to now been punished with suspension will henceforth be punished with dismissal. The changes have been in the pipeline since June last year when police chiefs presented the Ombudsman with some basic proposals for stricter inspections and penalties after a series of incidents of alleged police brutality and misdeeds. But the announcement of the presidential decree yesterday unfortunately coincided with another instance of alleged police misbehavior. A policeman riding a stolen motorcycle was arrested in Thessaloniki after being chased by colleagues because he ignored their signal to stop. According to police, the motorcycle had been stolen in the northern city in July 2002. Earlier this week Greece’s top prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas instructed subordinates to investigate any allegations involving police misbehavior and brutality following complaints by Greek and foreign human rights groups about the treatment of some people at the hands of certain officers.