The police are set for significant anti-riot control equipment upgrades, of which among them are five new vehicles and thousands of batons.

According to publicly available government tenders, the police are also set to gain a further 450 anti-riot suits.

The timing of the anti-riot upgrade has been linked by many to the recent clampdowns on various demonstrations during the lockdown, most recently at a rally on February 13 where police were criticised for excessive use of force, including the use of water cannon.

But police spokesman Christos Andreou told the Cyprus Mail that any such connections being made are unfortunate as standard police upgrades were already planned, well before the recent events took place.

“These public tenders have nothing to do with the events which are being spoken about now, they are linked to the need to upgrade equipment which has long been the case and are in accordance with the budget approved by parliament,” he told us.

“These upgrades should in no way be connected to what has happened recently.”

Another police source told the Cyprus Mail that the timing of events is coincidental and that: “The procurements are taking place within the context of upgrading and renewing police equipment, this may be to replace old gear or kit out new members of the force … this happens in all the countries of the world.”

Even so, many have expressed concerns after a 25-year-old woman was injured by the water cannon operated by the police during the protest on February 13. The water cannon itself, dubbed Ajax, was only recently acquired.

“It is necessary to be properly equipped when football matches are being policed and there may be incidents of hooliganism and at some point Covid will end and the police need to be equipped,” the source said.

They also referenced possible terror incidents as another threat for which the police must be equipped to deal with.

As for the 450 anti-riot suits, the source said that these will replace MMAD (rapid response unit) gear purchased in 2007 and others for the police units bought in 2010 – noting that the upgrades were confirmed in the 2020 budget for the year 2021.

The most notable trouble during the lockdown was back in October, when five police officers were injured and a police patrol car was set on fire in Limassol.