Several important points stand out in this sequence of events:

1. The senior law enforcement officer of the country is fired over an incident that was barely investigated, if at all. It was enough for the “new age” leadership of the Citizen’s Protection ministry to be subjected to some very old and thoroughly tested methods used by Greece’s “deep democracy” for the ministry to cave in within minutes: arrival of veteran communist and other leftist “activists,” some quite well known, at police HQ to loudly protest and demand the immediate release of the arrestees; huffing, angry remarks by fringe left-wingers in front of the cameras frantically announcing Greece’s “occupation” by a renewed “police state;” and the inevitable torrent of media “on location” reports, with various barely literate “field correspondents” emphasizing police “brutality” and how peaceful citizens, exercising their right of free assembly, found themselves in the clutches of the Gestapo. None of the facts that prompted the police action in this incident received any real publicity, nor did the minister in charge wait for even a cursory report into what exactly happened from police commanders before beginning to issue apologies in every direction.

2. Irrespective of who did what, and whether the police chief was indeed responsible for not sufficiently controlling his allegedly “hotheaded” subordinates, the precipitous action of the minister was suffused with glaringly obvious “sensitivity” toward leftwing comrades. It would have been interesting to have watched the ministry react to a hypothetical similar incident, involving though members of right-wing political organizations. Most likely, the arrestees would have remained in custody and the minister would be lauding the police for a job well done in rounding up the enemies of democracy. Is this how a “new blood” “new wave” administration is supposed to behave?

3. The summary dismissal of a police chief is serious business, especially when it is done in the spur-of-the-moment and with thinly-veiled political motives. The message such an action communicates is the worst possible under any circumstances: those bent on “dynamic protest” -- which, in Greece, includes the customary burning and vandalizing that causes extensive and expensive damage to property and puts many lives at risk -- interpret the ease with which the chief was thrown out as the unmistakable wink from the top that their “justified” anger may proceed as usual; and underpaid, poorly trained and motivated police officers, who are routinely bashed by politicians, “progressives,” the media, and every other “anti-establishment” self-appointed judge and jury loitering on the stage of live trash television, are left with the sense that nothing really changes.

New governments are usually given the benefit of the doubt during their initial few weeks in power. In the case of the present Greek government, however, this opening period of grace simply does not exist because of the scope and extent of the problems the country confronts -- and, certainly, internal security and law enforcement is a department where no discounts or dillydallying are possible.

The Citizen’s Protection ministry inaugurated its existence with firm declarations of “zero tolerance” of hooliganism and the kind of street thuggery that has plagued this country long enough, a welcome change over the handling of law enforcement by the previous government. These announcements struck a cord in public opinion, no doubt, and created some hope that, indeed, the lawlessness that has been increasingly claiming the upper hand in many parts of Athens, not to mention other parts of Greece, would be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Yet, as we have said so many times in the past, the gap between words and deeds can be indeed unbridgeable. What transpired over the Exarchia incident the other day suggests that, again, strong language could be tracking on straw feet.

The utmost care must be dedicated to promoting law enforcement agencies that scrupulously abide by the laws they are called upon to defend. But, equally, the utmost care must be given to sustaining the morale of those who man the front line and procure and deploy whatever is necessary for them to do the job.

Under no circumstances, high government officers should allow themselves to appear partial to those they feel are political “comrades” -- and under no circumstances they should give the impression that these political “comrades” have license to taunt and provoke, not to mention touch, law officers without suffering due consequences. There is no doubt that if the other day’s Exarchia script would be replayed in most any other European country, let alone the United States, the outcome would have been very different for those who became embroiled in that reportedly “justified” protest.

In our commentary of May 10 we said:

When “leaders” and other influentials, be it individual politicians, “opinion makers,” or pressure groups, are generally indifferent or dismissive of the law, how could they insist on our appointed police apply behaviors the rest of the “establishment” undermines daily as the measure in a law-abiding society (that does not really exist)? How could we expect our police becoming an island of virtuous robustness and rigorous self-discipline surrounded as it is by a sea of anomy, mass anarchy, and complete disregard of “good neighborly relations?”

National police forces are not foreign transplants. They originate in the society they are called upon to protect. By definition, they cannot escape the incapacities, miscarriages, and abuses society itself generates and, often, tolerates as part of everyday life. Before, therefore, we proceed with “reform,” it is imperative to address many separate dysfunctions present in our political and social systems”.

This conclusion stands even more perfectly today.

We welcome and salute the expressed intent of the new government to exercise “zero tolerance” in the face of increasing violence and lawlessness threatening the daily lives of the overwhelming majority of the people of this country. But we hesitate to accept the possibility of a better future when confronted with poorly thought out actions triggered by events like the Exarchia incident. Somehow, after such displays of “determination,” we are left with the nagging feeling that very little will be finally achieved in stopping those who endorse, practice, and often openly advocate anarchy and chaos as the answers to Greece’s many debilitating political, economic, and social calamities.

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