Even as the majority of members of police are individuals of integrity and honesty, corruption in the force does exist, and both the justice ministry and the force’s chief are determined to stamp it out, Minister Ionas Nicolaou and police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou said on Thursday.
In a joint news conference, Nicolaou and Chrysostomou acknowledged the existence of corruption in the force’s ranks, and proclaimed their unwavering commitment to tackle it, announcing practical measures aimed at identifying instances of corruption and weeding out and punishing those involved.
“Such a persistent phenomenon cannot be defeated from one day to the next,” Nicolaou said.
“A chronic condition cannot be cured overnight. Especially when we are talking about attitudes and habits often cloaked in the collegiate solidarity.”
Nonetheless, he added, a coordinated effort to deal with instances of corruption has been undertaken for the first time since March 2013.
“As a result, we have seen tangible results,” Nicolaou said.
“We have had criminal prosecutions of police members over cases of corruption and abuse of power, disciplinary hearings were held, and some members were forced to resign.”
Among the measures, Nicolaou explained, was a training programme for the development of skills and abilities in combating corruption effectively.
“Three thousand members have already been trained, irrespective of rank, and training will continue,” the Justice minister said.
“Additionally, since 2014, all complaints or information regarding corruption and abuse of power have been investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Recruitment and transfer criteria have been established, and over the last two years more than 50 members were transferred following information that they were involved in incidents of corruption.”
Further, legislative measures aimed at combating corruption included the introduction of the right to access recorded communication, the obligation of top police officers to report their source of wealth, regulating the operation of undercover agents, preparing a draft bill to encourage whistleblowing by offering increased protection, and another to allow the lifting of privacy in communications for serious offences, including corruption and bribery.
“Based on the findings of an internal study, we are creating an Internal Audit Service, with a mandate to review the actions or omissions constituting corruption or abuse of power by members of the police,” Nicolaou announced.
“The service will report directly to the chief of police and its investigations will be overseen by the attorney-general.”
Additional measures in the pipeline include stricter punishment for such offences, and criminalising the failure to report them.
A new webpage to collect anonymous information will also be created, commensurate with the standards under which other European states operate such sites.
With regard to gangland shooting in Ayia Napa last June, in which four people died, including a police officer and his wife – a second officer was seriously injured — who were having dinner with the man believed to be the intended target, police chief Chrysostomou said questions raised over the role of policemen were valid.
“In the course of investigations, although the primary target was to solve the case, probes were also held with regard to possible corruption and graft of police members,” the chief said.
“Testimony and information was collected, which need to be further investigated. Therefore, I have asked the attorney-general to appoint an independent criminal investigator.”