Security for the masses

The crackdown on domestic terrorism has generated a discussion of the need to re-examine the distribution of police officers assigned to protecting buildings or individuals – a distribution that had been arranged in light of the terrorist threat. The data recently made public are almost outrageous. Of the 20,000 police officers in the Attica basin – where 75 percent of the country’s domestic crime occurs – 6,000 men are assigned to guard supposed specific targets – including buildings and noted personalities. Assigning 30 percent of police officers to protect such potential targets is a luxury we cannot afford, given that just 70 percent of the staff has to carry out police duties for up to 5 million residents in Attica. However, the conclusions are even more irritating once we see the list of people who are being guarded and the size of their security staff. For example, a former deputy has a 17-man strong security contingent, an unknown businessman has five bodyguards, while TV stars whose lavish incomes are as unquestionable as the threat to their lives is questionable get police rather than private security. Even the prime minister and the opposition leader have an excessive number of bodyguards. However, although some extra security measures may be justified in their case, the same cannot be said for those figures whose bodyguards end up carrying out all sorts of unrelated tasks. The allocation of police officers – as well as the recent disclosure that the number of passes exempting their holders from the license-plate-based traffic restrictions in Athens has reached 110,000 – is a clear indication of our tendency to trivialize and exploit emergency regulations. The trivialization of emergency measures also has a dimension of inequality, as the overwhelming majority of the population is deprived of police protection (even the traffic police department is understaffed) to the benefit of private individuals who face no real threat and who, in any case, can afford to hire private security. Amid all the hyped plans for economic convergence and prosperity, the government ought to hammer out a program aimed at redressing these monstrous distortions that expose the State in the eyes of the public and confirm the prevalent establishment mentality. If nothing else, the clampdown on terrorism was supposed to have worked to the advantage of those threatened by common crime.

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