Waiting for action

The immediate response by the prime minister to Kathimerini’s report criticizing the free police protection for high-profile politicians, businessmen and journalists raises hopes that the government will finally put an end to this unacceptable situation. It remains to be seen whether the interest of the prime minister is enough to overcome more covert resistance. Sure, the conservatives yesterday set up a special committee to examine the issue. However, if past experience is any guide, committee formation is the surest path to inaction. Time passes while things stay as they are. Politicians have repeatedly vowed to fix the problem – and voters are weary of unfulfilled promises, particularly as things appear to have deteriorated. After the dismantling of the November 17 terrorist group, Kathimerini noted that it was time the police force limited the resources allocated for the protection of public figures. There were hardly any objections at the time but, still, nothing happened. Security needs during the Olympic Games in Athens last year were also supposed to mandate a reduction in the hordes of police officers working as private minders. Shortly after the end of the Games, Kathimerini made public a secret police report according to which 1,825 officers worked as security or bodyguards while another 1,185 worked as special or border guards. Note that this was the official figure. A much larger number was transferred unofficially. It is estimated that some 6,000 policemen are working as private security guards. November 17 is history and the Olympics are over but the free protection of VIPs continues. These policemen are effectively used as errand boys. The transfers of this sort put an unfair burden on state coffers while mocking the principle of equality before the law. At a time when ordinary citizens are seeing a decline in police patrols, some public figures enjoy unnecessary protection – often free of charge. Although Greece has the highest police officer/citizen rate in Europe, the number of officers designated to protect the populace is one of the lowest. Few believe that the chronic problem will be curbed, regardless of what the committee has to recommend. But why does it take a committee to fix the situation in the first place? These police officers were transferred on somebody’s orders. That somebody must now make sure they are recalled.