OPINION

Uncovered cops

The mentality and actions of the Greek police are often a real mystery. At a time when many people are rightly complaining about the dwindling police patrols in the neighborhoods of Athens, even in the capital’s crime hot spots, two armed plain-clothes police officers were caught on Tuesday posing as unionists at a labor meeting of the PAME communist-affiliated union. Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos said the incident was «unacceptable, to say the least,» adding that the prime minister and the government have nothing to do with «practices that have been condemned for decades now.» Indignation also came from the colleagues of the two officers. The police officers’ union rightly said that such incidents «raise legitimate questions, confusion and distrust about the action of the security services and their staff.» The union urged the Public Order Ministry to make clear that such bygone tactics «are out of sync with the modern role of a democratic police force,» regardless of whether the country is ruled by PASOK or New Democracy. Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said that «the unauthorized presence of plain-clothes officers at (Tuesday’s) meeting… does under no circumstances follow a decision by the Greek police or the Public Order Ministry.» But this is hard to believe since only a few weeks ago police officers entered a meeting by DOE, the United Federation of Teachers. The minister has not grasped his political responsibility fully. Does he really think that spying on labor unionists instead of protecting citizens against thieves and criminals helps enhance the image of the conservative administration? The sight of the arrested police officers being handed over, along with their removed guns and handcuffs, by the unionists to a senior police official at the offices of the organization does not help much either. The Public Order Ministry is naturally trying to shun responsibility and play down the incident. However, if it’s true that the officers were not following the orders of their superior officials, as the minister said, police staff are presumably free to act on their own and invade the offices of PAME, DOE or any other union. Does the government condone this state of affairs? If so, where does political responsibility lie, if not with the minister? Rather than coming up with implausible excuses, Voulgarakis should instead take all the necessary measures to prevent such disgraceful incidents in the future.