Greece strips VIPs of police guards amid public anger

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 31, 2012 12:26 PM

ATHENS (Reuters) - Thousands of police officers guarding Greek politicians and other VIPs will be redeployed to fight street crime, police said on Tuesday, in a move aimed at quelling public anger over the privileges of the ruling class in a near-bankrupt country.

Ministers of the new government have already taken a 30 percent pay cut, as ordinary Greeks lament that they bear the brunt of painful austerity measures demanded by the EU and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a rescue.

Some 1,500 officers are set to be removed from their positions as personal guards of politicians, businessmen and others and redeployed to the streets of Athens, police said. They added that the security of parliament's corridors would be handed to a private firm instead.

"We are certain this move will bear significant fruit as far as savings of staff and funds is concerned," the police spokesman, Christos Manouras, said. "It will also instill a sense of security in our fellow citizens."

Greek tabloids regularly feature pictures of high-level politicians escorted by officers carrying their umbrellas or food shopping, fuelling anger among cash-strapped Greeks.

Police said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's personal guard would be scaled down by 25 officers and that of leftist opposition leader Alexis Tsipras by 20 officers.

The government would also scrap police escort services for lawmakers and mayors.

Along with other public-sector workers, Greece's 55,000 police officers have suffered wage cuts and layoffs as part of austerity measures prescribed by the country's international lenders.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)