THE CYPRUS police force has made big strides forward in the last few years. It has significantly improved its standing in the community and enjoys greater public confidence than it did 10 years ago. This is not say that everything in the force is in good order. Corruption is still rife, links with the underworld still exist as the Ayia Napa murders showed and violence is still sometimes used against detainees although not extensively, as had been the case in the past.
There is a difference now. The police command and the ministry of justice have been working at tackling these deeply-rooted, age-old problems. This is a difficult task which admittedly would require years’ of work and unwavering commitment to produce the desired results but a process has been put in motion. More importantly the police command and the justice minister have acknowledged the existence of these problems and have not tried to sweep them under the carpet – the old method of dealing with allegations.
On a more positive note that police have succeeded in improving their relations with the public and are no longer viewed with suspicion or hostility by people. Better training in dealing with people has contributed to this, with officers in general being much more polite, even if they are booking you for traffic offences. The introduction of the neighbourhood cop has contributed to improving relations and has also helped fight crime, as figures, released this week, showed.
The neighbourhood watch scheme has ensured a steady fall in both petty and serious crime since it was introduced in 2011. In 2011 there were 8,426 serious crime cases while in 2016 they were down to 5,094, while petty crime cases were 7,266 and 4,089 respectively. These are the concrete benefits of police working closely with people and inspiring their trust.
This co-operation was given another boost on Thursday when the Chief of Police Zacharias Chrysostomou signed a memorandum of co-operation with 12 NGOs, the objective being joint action, research work, exchange of information and training. These NGOs play an active role in society, offering support to immigrants, human trafficking victims and family violence victims as well as promoting gender equality among other things.
This opening up to society is a positive initiative that will further boost public trust in the police, but complacency must be avoided. The police should not see improved relations as an excuse for laxness in the clean-up of the force or a let-up in discipline. The force is on a good path, but there is plenty of room for improvement still.