Police to put on “friendlier face”

A shake-up of Greece’s security forces will lead to the reorganization of the anti-terrorist squad and the introduction of neighborhood policemen, said new Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, just hours after more than 400 officers conducted an operation in the central Athens neighborhood of Exarchia.

Chrysochoidis said he was “saddened” by the state of the police force that he inherited, adding that it was his aim to make it “democratic and friendlier to the citizen.”

He said that he would favor community policing over the general sweeps conducted by the force in recent months.

“As of January 2 next year, neighborhood policemen will be present and at the same time foot patrols will also start,” he said. “The police will have a constant presence in every neighborhood that is a refuge for lawlessness.”

His comments came in contrast to the operation conducted in the bohemian neighborhood of Exarchia, a notorious hangout for anarchists. Eight people were arrested and 81 detained, mostly for minor drug offenses.

Chrysochoidis used the opportunity to state clearly that he would not allow the police to target people based on their political beliefs. “I have friends that are anti-establishmentarians and anarchists,” said Chrysochoidis. “We will not stigmatize beliefs or particular groups but we will stand against vandalism and hooliganism.”

The minister also warned policemen that they would have to watch their behavior when dealing with citizens. “Any policeman who touches a citizen illegally, any policeman that breaches the constitution will be thrown out of the force on my orders.”

Chrysochoidis also said there would be an overhaul of the anti-terrorist squad and its strategy. He suggested that there would be changes in personnel. “We have to look for the best people for this sensitive service,” he said.

The changes will not stop there, sources said. The recently appointed head of the National Intelligence Service, Dimitris Papangelopoulos, is set to be replaced and sweeping changes are likely in the fire service.

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