It may not seem like it, but Greece has a lot of police for its population at 488 officers per 100,000 residents, when Germany has a ratio of 321/100,000 and the European average is 337 (European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics 2014, using 2011 data). Nevertheless, the majority of citizens complain of never seeing a policeman when they need one.
Many blame this shortage of active police officers on the fact that too many are guarding politicians, businessmen, journalists and other VIPs. The first thing any new public order minister does, therefore, is to leak data concerning the number of police nannies assigned to such individuals so that he can then make a big deal of ending the phenomenon after having sufficiently stirred the media into a frenzy and gotten all sorts of TV personalities (most of whom have a couple of police officers watching their backs) to lament the situation. And then it happens all over again with the next minister.
The truth is that having 2,000 to 2,500 officers of the country’s force of 50,000 men and women on VIP security details seems way too excessive, regardless of how this compares to other countries. But a phenomenon that was an abuse of privilege in the past is now becoming something of a necessity because every time any prominent target comes under any form of attack, the Hellenic Police (ELAS) is accused of failing at its job. The bureaucrats, therefore, decide to maintain the status quo rather than risk taking any of the blame.
At the end of the day, however, this waste of police resources is effectively a result of ridiculous prejudices: all politicians are scum, journalists are weasels, businessmen are leeches sucking the people’s blood and notaries are thieves selling off people’s houses. So every time leftist hardliners like Zoe Constantopoulou and Panayiotis Lafazanis put on a show outside some notary’s office against foreclosures or the Rouvikonas anarchist group posts a video of its members splashing paint on a public building, police officers are pulled off the beat to protect people who are coming under attack for simply doing their jobs.
Thanks to the “constant revolution” against the “establishment,” the downtown Athens district of Exarchia is always surrounded by riot vans and even the prime minister’s residence is guarded by two or three on a daily basis. Every protest march and rally, even if it involves just 50 people, needs to be guarded by dozens of police and riot officers.
So where is ELAS supposed to find the men and women needed to protect everyone else? The lawlessness that the ruling leftist SYRIZA party so recklessly gave its blessing to comes at a price, so we shouldn’t be surprised when the violence escalates and becomes more widespread. Criminals will pick up a gun a lot easier if they know that the sheriff isn’t in town.
Published in ekathimerini 12.4.2018