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Our View: Police force hampered by political interference

New police chief, Kypros Michaelides

SPEAKING during the swearing-in of the new chief of police, President Anastasiades told him: “it is now your responsibility to find and use the best staff and to make those who do not adequately perform their duties to safeguard the Republic and tackle crime assume their responsibilities.”

Anasatasiades acknowledged the new chief, Kypros Michaelides, was taking over the responsibility of restoring the tarnished image of the police force at a difficult time and urged him to do everything in his power to tackle crime, while always using ‘meritocracy’ and ‘sound management’ as his guides.

Politicians always pay lip service to the need for meritocracy and good leadership in the police force but few, if any, believe these platitudes. A day before the swearing-in ceremony, the sacked chief, Zacharias Chrysostomou, issued a long statement in which, apart from offering the apologies of the police force “for any possible mistakes and omissions on the part of the police in the investigation of the cases of the missing women,” contained a dig at the political parties.

“For any problems and distortions shown and continue to be shown by the police force, the political party system of the country is not without responsibility,” said Chrysostomou. This could be dismissed as an attempt by the sacked chief to shift the blame for the police’s inadequacy, but anyone who follows what goes on in Cyprus knows there was truth in what he said. It suffices to say, that whenever there are elections, opposition parties accuse the government of giving promotions to its own in the police force.

The reality is that all the parties interfere in promotions and transfers in the force. For example, officers working in the security details of party leaders – glorified bodyguards with little to do other than chauffeur around their boss – are given one promotion after the other. The result? They rise high up the police hierarchy without doing proper police work or broadening their experience. This is the type of meritocracy the party leaders promote in the force.

Nepotism is just one of the problems preventing the police from carrying out their responsibilities in a professionally competent way. Officers are probably not trained as well as they could be because such training is not given the importance it merits. At the same time, rampant nepotism means the police hierarchy is not judged on results or meeting targets such as solving cases, reducing crime rate and so forth.

The new chief has it all to do. It would be a step in the right direction, however, if the political parties and government do not interfere in his work and leave him to find and use the best officers, just as the president advised.

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