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Basketball debacle points to police reform

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When Anna Koukkides-Procopiou is handed the report’s findings into the events of the Apollon-Anorthosis basketball game turned violent, it is an opportunity for the Justice Minister to consider reviving the blueprint for police reform, probably collecting dust somewhere.

Undoubtedly, the fan violence and destruction caused by hooligans are to blame.

However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the police in anticipating such a high-risk game, leaving patrol cars unattended that were broken into and set on fire.

Hooligans grabbed smoke bombs and tear gas and used them against police and other fans and, eventually, burnt down the nearby bus terminal office.

The irony is that with the hooligans being so addicted to the need to vent their anger, they missed the wad of cash, believed to be a near-five figure sum, inside the bus office.

Perhaps a general review of the fan card is something to be considered, as well as increased surveillance at sports grounds.

Better controls should be introduced, and if the football or other club owners and managers cannot contain their fans, they should be slapped with harsher fines and penalties, such as all-out spectator bans and even relegation.

They do not deserve a slap on the wrist and are rewarded with shiny new stadiums to play in.

Let’s not forget that the millions in grants to clubs, mainly football, are paid by taxpayers, while these clubs are also bailed out and their never-ending tax bills written off by successive administrations who do not want to upset the strong voter base.

On the other side of the field, you have the police trying to do their job of suppressing violence when they should be working harder to prevent such acts in the first place.

Better education is needed, probably starting with the younger ages at schools.

Police need to regain the respect they are losing daily, made worse by reports of corruption and cover-ups.

Using excessive force and poor social skills make one wonder what their training entails.

Knowing how to use batons, shields and water cannons is not the solution.

Smart tactics are needed to project an image of Cyprus as a safe place for international businesses and their foreign executives and workers.

If ordinary police officers are frustrated, they may be relieved of their desk duties and work more on prevention and preparedness.

Police reform should be widespread to include outsourcing some services to the private sector and hiring outside contractors for the expertise they don’t or will never have.

Citizens need to be engaged to help the police in their work, and the best way to do this is to show that officers are fair, understanding, and cooperate with local communities.

Only then will we be able to point out the known hooligans, and perhaps stadiums will one day be a safe place to return to.