AFTER last month’s murder of underworld figure Phanos Kalopsidiotis while he was dining in the company of two policemen, one of whom was also killed together with his wife, the government discovered there was corruption in the force. Before then, there was complete complacency, exemplified by the justice minister Ionas Nicolaou’s assertion, a little over a year ago, that the period of tolerance to corruption in the force was over for good. Events of last month have exposed the hollowness of the minister’s boast in people’s eyes.
After a barrage of criticism in the last few days, Nicolaou held a news conference to explain the measures that had been taken to combat corruption. A report about corruption in the force, which had been given to President Anastasiades a few days after the Ayia Napa murders, was the result of 10 months’ work said Nicolaou answering claims that there was an older report that he had completely ignored. The report looked at issues such as the leaking of information, the protection of criminal elements, violence against citizens and calculated omissions by the police, said Nicolaou. There was also a survey involving 434 officers.
A range of measures had also been taken such as training programmes, tighter supervision of officers and better staffing of the body investigating allegations against police. How effective these measures were is not clear. The truth is that there has always been corruption in the police force and despite the countless declarations by successive governments none has ever displayed the commitment and resolve needed to tackle it.
How could they when governments and political parties sponsor the culture of corruption – low-level corruption – relating to appointments, promotions and transfers. This type of corruption is endemic and fuels the more sinister type. A crooked officer that belongs to a political party would have no qualms about selling information or helping out underworld figures because he knows he enjoys party protection.
This may sound simplistic, but nepotism is a major contributing factor to the more sinister corruption that exists, and is tolerated. It is also one of the reasons there has never been a real attempt at a clean-up of the force. How many policemen have been found guilty of serious disciplinary offences – let alone corruption – and been sacked in the last few years? Nowhere near enough we suspect and this is why boasts about the end of tolerance to corruption cannot be taken very seriously. Nicolaou may have the best intentions but these are not enough. We need to see results.