President Nikos Christodoulides said that he has nothing to announce just yet as to the possible appointment of a new police chief, as speculation grew on Monday about a possible reshuffle at the top of the police force.
“I will not make public statements without having made a decision, but when I have [decided] you can be certain that you’ll be informed,” the president replied when quizzed by reporters.
He was responding to questions about rumours doing the rounds regarding the possible replacement of police chief Stelios Papatheodorou – the man caught in the eye of the storm after the attacks on migrants in Chlorakas in late August and then Limassol in early September.
Christodoulides simply added that he has asked for more information after having received a report on the course of events.
Days after the rampage against migrants, the police chief was summoned to parliament where he conceded that the police “could have intervened earlier”.
At around the same timeframe, Christodoulides commented that he felt “ashamed by our inability to protect our citizens” – a remark read as damning of the police force.
That comment also got the rumour mill churning about a change in the police leadership.
Earlier in the day, Justice Minister Anna Koukkides-Procopiou was asked to comment on who the possible candidate may be but she deferred the matter to the president.
“The appointment of the chief of police is done by the president of the Republic, and is a political appointment,” the minister told journalists.
“The question you are asking me now, would be better put to the president,” Procopiou added.
As for the justice minister herself, she appears to be off the hook – at least for now. Whereas the justice minister is the political supervisor of the police force, she has no authority to sack or appoint police officials.
Assuming Papatheodorou either resigns or is dismissed, he would be the first instance of an appointment of an official by President Christodoulides.
Papatheodorou may be pressured into stepping down, or else be ousted.
The government’s silence on the matter has only served to fuel speculation. It is said the president is considering someone from outside the police force – such as an attorney – as a replacement for Papatheodorou.
However, circumventing the police hierarchy in this way would likely create ill feeling and possibly lead to resignations. Normally, the next in line for the job would be the deputy police chief or one of the four assistant chiefs.
In addition, there is the risk of appointing an ‘outsider’ as police chief in that this person would need time to ‘learn the ropes’.
There have been two instances in the past where the police chief and the justice minister lost their positions at the same time. The first was in 2008, after the scandal over the escape of convicted murderer Antonis Prokopiou Kitas from a private hospital.
More recently, ex-Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou and ex-police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou both resigned in the wake of the serial killings perpetrated by Nicos Metaxas.