Police get new duties, holiday

From the end of next year, the responsibility for issuing passports will devolve from regional authorities to the police, under draft legislation tabled in Parliament yesterday which also sets the October 20 feast day of the force’s patron saint as a police holiday. With the exception of diplomatic passports, temporary travel papers for the repatriation of Greek citizens and replacement travel documents issued in emergencies, which will remain under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry, as of January – or, at the latest, of June – 2004, all passports will be issued by the police. This was seen as necessary in order to boost security after several thefts of blank passports and official stamps from regional authority offices. The force is already responsible for issuing state identity cards. The draft law also greatly expands the brief of the police’s anti-corruption Internal Affairs Department to cover investigations into bribery and blackmail in the entire civil service – including public utilities, organizations and agencies – with the exception of the port police and Merchant Marine Ministry employees. Furthermore, the force is to be relieved – but the bill does not specify when – of its security tasks at Greek airports, which will come under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Authority. However, the police will be responsible for checking all accreditations for the 2004 Olympics. The bill also puts an end to the practice of paying bonuses to officers for confiscating the license plates of motorists caught for not having paid their road tax. The draft notes that this had «resulted in officers exclusively focusing on such offences, to the detriment of their other duties.» And the bill makes the feast day of the force’s patron, the fourth-century St Artemios of Antioch, an official police holiday.

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