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Our View: Enforcing law and order should not be afterthought for police

bins and smoke in limassol
Garbage cans on fire in Limassol

After Friday night’s violent riot in Limassol, President Nikos Christodoulides called a meeting at the presidential palace the next day to discuss the ineptitude of the policing.

The meeting, a government source said, recognised the failure of the police’s operational plan and wanted to prevent the repetition of similar episodes through the formulation of new plans by the relevant authorities. The objective, given that more demonstrations were planned, was to ensure there were no threats to public security and the safety of citizens.

There could be no more emphatic confirmation of the police command’s failure than this comment. Both in Chlorakas and subsequently in Limassol, the police failed spectacularly to perform its main responsibilities – ensure the safety of citizens and safeguard public security. Thugs were allowed to run riot, beating people up, including tourists, and entering properties and smashing them up.

Enforcing law and order seemed an afterthought for the police both in Chlorakas and in Limassol. Christodoulides, according to press reports, was furious with the way the episodes were handled in Limassol but did not want to take any decision in a fit of rage and sack police chief Stelios Papatheodorou and his political superior, Justice Minister Anna Procopiou.

This seemed more like an excuse not to take a tough decision because nobody would have seen their sacking – especially that of the chief of police – as an act of rage. The police failed abysmally to safeguard public order, not once but twice in five days, the second time with a heavy presence of fully equipped officers. It was almost as if the policemen on duty had orders to go easy on the rioters, allowing them to wreak havoc before attempting to stop them.

In most countries, the position of the police chief would have become untenable after such a policing fiasco and he/she would have resigned, but in Cyprus officials rarely take responsibility for failure. Instead Papatheodorou and Procopiou accepted the embarrassment of being publicly reprimanded by the president, as if they were badly behaved schoolchildren, and returned to their jobs in the hope that this would be the end of the matter.

The president’s unwillingness to sack the police chief, who was ultimately responsible for the police failure, or force him to resign, indicated that he does not set very high standards of the top officials that serve the state. And how could he trust someone whose operational plan proved a spectacular failure to formulate a new one that will be effective?

Papatheodorou is lucky that Wednesday night’s anti-migration demo, organised by Mass Deportations Now, outside the presidential palace has been cancelled and his newly-formulated operational plan would not be tested. The public should also consider themselves lucky.

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