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Our View: It is actions, not PR events, that will change opinions on police force

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Police officers at the Police Week event on Sunday

Once a year Cyprus police roll out their ‘human face’ during Police Week and talk about modernising the force and becoming ‘closer to the public’ with various social schemes.

Polls over the years show that around half of the population trust the police as an institution, which is still a better trust rating than the government in most surveys.

Distrust is still significant however and talking about the ‘human face’ of police does not seem to have done much in terms of changing perceptions that the underbelly of the force remains corrupt, uncaring and at times – although less so than in the past – downright brutal. No amount of public events showing their human side will change that. Only consistency and impartiality in actions can.

For instance, police did a great job of catching serial killer Nicos Metaxas but only once the bodies began piling up. They might have caught him sooner and saved lives if they hadn’t failed to take seriously the reports of the missing foreign women when they were filed.

Their zealousness over Covid protocols however knew no bounds, carrying out over three million checks during that period. They also almost blinded a young woman with a water cannon during an anti-lockdown protest. Yet, in other instances they have allowed protesters to close roads and inconvenience the public without intervening at all.

For all their theoretical, softly-softly approach, police around Europe were pretty heavy-handed during anti-lockdown protests but very lenient on other protests that took place during lockdowns, some in the UK and US even ‘taking the knee’ in solidarity with the protesters. This is not impartial policing. This is police taking their ‘human face’ approach too far in the other direction, resulting in more crime.

In the US it gave licence to some protesters to loot and burn with no fear of consequence because they believed police somehow identified with their cause. Also, UK police have recently been accused of treating climate protesters with kid gloves because the cause is politically correct. Crime has risen in both countries.

No one is saying police have an easy job, and it is a dangerous one. Assaults on police officers here during arrests are frequent and it is just as easy for a member of the public to make an unfounded accusation against a police officer as it is for a policeman to treat an individual unjustly.

Perhaps, like in other countries, it’s time to invest in body cams for all officers on the beat to protect both the public and officers from unfounded accusations.

Most people don’t want the police to be their friend except maybe those public figures who need them to quash their traffic fines. Everyone else just needs them to be polite, professional and tough on crime.

This is why police need to tread a fine line. They must have the confidence and trust of the general public and at the same time engender a healthy respect for authority. Too far in one or the other direction is a recipe for failure if changing perceptions is the goal.

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