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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Human side to policing ]

Human side to policing

Stefanos Evripidou

THE POLICE yesterday hit back at criticism that it uses “excessive force” to tackle violence in sports arenas, by releasing recent photographs of sports-associated violence to highlight the force’s more “human side”.

Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos yesterday accused the force’s critics of being too quick to blame police for sports-related violence and of siding with allegedly innocent victims who always claim they were caught in the cross-fire between police and trouble-makers.

To back up his statement, titled “One picture, a thousand words”, the spokesman distributed three photographs taken by Phileleftheros photojournalist Andreas Lazarou showing tense moments between police and hooligans after the football cup semi-final between Anorthosis and Apollonas last Wednesday. The match was held at Larnaca team Anorthosis’ Antonis Papadopoulos stadium.

Twelve people were charged with causing a disturbance, and attacking and insulting the police after violent episodes erupted between the teams’ football fans following the match.

Sticks, stones and metallic objects were hurled at Larnaca police and the rapid reaction unit MMAD. Four of those arrested were under the age of 14. The remaining eight were between the ages of 18 and 26. The court hearing is set for next Tuesday.

The first photo released shows a MMAD member in full riot gear using his shield to protect a father on crutches and his evidently upset young daughter, who are walking away from a group of hooligans.

In the second photo, two riot police are chasing six football fans. Of the six, one is wearing a hood, another is covering his face with a T-shirt, another has what looks like a white cloth with two holes cut for his eyes wrapped around his face, while a fifth is holding a stick.

The third photograph shows a white masked hooligan throwing what looks like a piece of rock over a barbed wire fence at a policeman.

Referring to the first photograph, Katsounotos said: “The terror seen in the expression of the little girl and the distress on the father’s face, testify and confirm in the strongest manner how low a section of Cypriot society has fallen.”

It also highlighted the “so-called fans” who go to sporting arenas, as well as the trouble “real and innocent fans” have to go through at these events.

“At the same time, it clearly refutes those prominent … people who often express the position that police allegedly resort to indiscriminate or excessive violence or react spasmodically, leaving the public unprotected.

“The desperate attempt by the police (MMAD) to protect unsuspecting members of the public, and especially the young girl, speaks for itself and doesn’t need further comment,” he said.

The other two photographs are a reference to those who claim for every arrest that “they just happened to be there totally by chance” and were “abused” by police unprovoked.

While the spokesman used images to highlight the difficult circumstances in which the police were tackling the seemingly permanent problem of hooliganism in the country, his political bosses had to resort to words to deny reports that the government wanted to relieve Katsounotos and his superior, police chief Michalis Papageorgiou, from their positions.

Alithia newspaper’s lead story yesterday claimed that President Demetris Christofias was unhappy with the police chief and his spokesman and wanted to get rid of them.

The paper cited reliable sources saying that Papageorgiou attended a meeting at the presidential palace with the ministers of justice, interior and labour to discuss the issue.

The series of embarrassing fiascos connected to the drugs squad, the handling of the violence at the Rainbow Festival in Larnaca last year and the basketball match between Apoel and a Turkish team were listed as reasons for which the president had allegedly lost faith in his police chief.

Christofias allegedly asked Papageorgiou to hand in his resignation, which the latter refused to do.

The same article claimed that Christofias sent a letter to the justice minister asking that Papageorgiou get rid of Katsounotos.

Justice Minister Loucas Louca yesterday described this as a “fantastical scenario”, questioning how far people will go during an election period.

“The issue was never raised. There is no letter. It is a fantastical scenario,” he said.

Louca denied that any such meeting had taken place at the palace, asking “what role does the labour ministry have to play regarding police issues?”

Regarding Katsounotos, the minister praised him for doing his job “extremely well”, adding that no such issue of his replacement was ever raised.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou also saw fit to respond, saying the article “bears no relation to reality”

“The president has never had a telephone conversation with the chief of police on this matter, nor did he send a letter requesting the removal of the police spokesman as the paper claims.

“Such a report would have made sense if it was April 1, a day when the press traditionally writes articles belonging to the realm of fantasy,” he said.


(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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