Police union representatives told a House legal committee meeting on Wednesday that the ongoing speculation over the police chief’s future was hampering officers in carrying out their duties.
Police chief Stelios Papatheodorou was caught in the eye of the storm following the attacks on migrants in Chlorakas in late August and then Limassol in early September when police were severely criticised for their tardy, ineffective response to the violence.
The discussion at the House committee meeting revolved around a proposed bill making it a criminal offence for protestors to wear masks to hide their identities at public gatherings.
Papatheodorou and Justice Minister Anna Procopiou did not attend the meeting. The first was replaced by assistant police chief Stelios Ioannou, while the minister was accompanying the leader of Greek political party Syriza Stefanos Kasselakis, currently visiting Cyprus, to a memorial at the Imprisoned Graves in Nicosia.
After the meeting, the president of police union Isotita Nikos Loizides called for an end to the prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the police chief and whether he will be replaced.
“At the moment, Stelios Papatheodorou serves as the acting chief, with a deputy chief and four assistant chiefs in support,” he said.
“If the state chooses to take any action in accordance with the constitution, it is its prerogative. However, recent history saw four former chiefs of police suspended and four justice ministers resigning. This should raise concerns about the need for reforms within the police force, which has been struggling for decades.
“The police are not here for public relations stunts or to serve as a platform for arbitrary conclusions. They exist to protect society,” Loizides said.
He added that respect should be shown to those leading or serving in the police force, regardless of the circumstances. Responding to questions about appointing a police chief from outside the force, Loizides pointed out that the constitution allows for such a move.
“However, at the moment, Papatheodourou still holds the position,” he said.
“Have you ever heard of accusations against the president of an association that didn’t affect the group’s operations? We have been silent out of respect, but the situation needs to end.”
Loizides mentioned that discussions with the office of President Nikos Christodoulides took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, where he was reassured that that laws and regulations within the police force are in place, and unfounded speculation hinders its operations.
The president of the independent union of Cyprus’ public employees (ASDYK) Lukas Christou also expressed his disappointment at the speculations surrounding the police chief, lamenting that they have been in the spotlight for a month.
“We expected the state to stand by the police force, from the rank-and-file officer to its leadership. The police bear no responsibility for the migration issue or the demographic changes,” Christou said.
“They are here to enforce the law and maintain order. What’s lacking is the will to support the police force.”
Furthermore, the president of the Cyprus Police Association Kyriakos Charalambous emphasised that police officers focus on their duty of protecting citizens and their property, and nothing else.
“Police officers don’t engage in politics but carry out their duties by enforcing the law and maintaining order. That’s our role.”