By Elias Hazou
OVER two hundred complaints were made against the police in 2014 by members of the public, representing the largest year-on-year rise in ten years.
Presenting the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints Against the Police (IAIACAP)’s annual report for 2014 to the President on Tuesday, chairman Andreas Spyridakis said the increase recorded was chiefly due to changes in the processing of complaints.
In 2014, said Spyridakis, the Attorney general ordered an end to internal administrative investigations into complaints made against the police; from then on, complaints were to be forwarded to the Attorney general and to IAIACAP. As a result, the vast majority of complaints have since been referred to IAIACAP.
More recently, in 2015, the number of complaints against members of the police force came to 254, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year.
Of the 212 complaints filed in 2014, 99 were subject to criminal and/or disciplinary investigations.
Cases processed in 2014 that have made it to court relate to inhumane and demeaning treatment toward a citizen, causing grievous bodily harm, assault and battery, unlawful arrest and causing death through reckless conduct.
The beating of a suspect in a holding cell at the Polis Chrysochous police station, a case now being tried in court, was among the most notable cases of 2014.
Among the more serious cases investigated, Spyridakis cited a complaint by a citizen alleging to have been roughed up by police during a football match at the Tsirion stadium in Limassol on January 19, 2014.
IAIACAP found that the complainant was in fact maltreated by police officers but the offenders could not be identified due to the fact they wore helmets and riot gear.
Many complaints filed against the police were of a similar nature – relating to incidents occurring before, during and after football games and similar events.
In July 2014, Spyridakis said, IAIACAP wrote to the police chief asking that the regulations be amended so that identifying insignia are added to riot gear.
The authority learned recently that the chief of police adopted their recommendation. The police chief has ordered that stickers with identifiers be placed on police helmets.
From May 2006 – when IAIACAP began operating – up to December 31, 2015, a total of 1,416 complaints were lodged.
During the same time period, the authority appointed criminal investigators for 588 complaints. In 2013, investigators were appointed for 52 cases.
In 2014, the number of cases where investigators were appointed came to 99, and 104 for the year 2015.
To date, since 2006, 39 criminal and 43 disciplinary cases have been brought together. Of the criminal instance, courts found the defendants guilty in two cases, the defendants were acquitted in 17 cases, 17 cases were suspended, and 13 are pending.
Although IAIACAP has produced considerable work during its 10 years of operation, noted Spyridakis, the authority could do a lot more if more resources were at its disposal.
The authority is seriously under-funded, he said. In 2014 the budget was at €236,000, and for 2016 it has been further slashed to €227,000.
Receiving the report, President Nicos Anastasiades told Spyridakis that “wherever your observations require action on the part of the state, be assured that the necessary action will be taken.”