Police Chief Constantinos Skoumas was dismissed from his position just two months after taking the helm, following the use of rough tactics against protesters who were demonstrating against the train collision that claimed the lives of 57 individuals on the Athens-Thessaloniki route. Riot police reportedly used tear gas and attacked demonstrators who were protesting what they perceived as negligence on the part of the New Democracy government and railway agencies.
Despite the widely-reported instances of police aggression in the streets of the capital and during demonstrations in Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, no official reason has been given for Skoumas’ dismissal, according to Agence France-Presse.
“The appointment of a new police chief aims (to introduce) a more positive and efficient implementation of modern police operational plans on citizen safety,” the office of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
In one protest, a riot police squad was filmed charging and striking peaceful demonstrators at the central Syntagma Square in Athens without provocation and a police tow truck slammed into a group trying to block a street with garbage bins, sending at least one flying to the ground.
There was no report whether the police detained the driver of the truck as criticism rose over police handling of the protests that drew rage over the deaths of the victims, many of them university students.
“We will learn from our mistakes,” Mitsotakis said during a campaign stop in Athens with elections coming as soon as May, his government and party trying to regroup and win re-election.
The then-transport minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned after the disaster but kept on the the New Democracy ballot to be a Member of Parliament although he hasn’t said why he failed to implement railway safety measures.
A stationmaster on duty only four days and and three other railway officials have been charged and face a possible life sentence as an investigation is underway, no indication whether anyone at higher levels would be charged over the tragedy.
After being fired, Koumas, was promoted to the rank of Retired General and leaves with the title of Honorary Chief of the Hellenic Police, no reason given for that decision either.