Police prepare for IMF/World Bank meeting

On Thursday, the police force held a training exercise, which was to prepare them for expected clashes during this year's IMF/World Bank annual meeting that is to take place in Prague during the last week in September. Dita Asiedu reports.

Although police officers are now confident that they have the skills and training, one point seems to stand in their way: the lack of the necessary gear and gadgets. According to a policeman who wants to remain anonymous, he and his colleagues fear that without the appropriate apparel they will not be effective during demonstrations and therefore have been perusing the army stores for it. What's worse, however, is that the cash has to come out of their own pockets.

The police believe that the current minister of interior, Stanislav Gross, who is fairly new to his post, has been painted the wrong picture of the situation by his officials. Good-quality safety helmets, shields, and long truncheons that are all used to fight assaults have only been acquired recently, just after a personal visit from Minister Gross, despite the fact that the request for such equipment had been sent to his office repeatedly and much earlier.

But the police fear that these devices will not suffice. They need special vests in which handcuffs, transmitter radios, tear gas sprays, and fire extinguishers can be kept safely. They furthermore need proper thigh holsters that can hold their weapons tightly. "We are just like Christmas trees, everything is hanging off us loosely and is easily up for grabs whilst we're busy tackling clashes," one policeman noted. So far, many have spent hundreds, in some cases even thousands, of crowns on vests and holsters.

The leader of an elite commando unit made it clear that they have no choice. If they wouldn't go on their shopping spree they would have to stand away from violent protests and pretend that they haven't noticed. When the police do not have secure and efficient gear at their disposal they will be physically and psychologically disadvantaged. During a row, policemen will be worried about losing something, or getting something stolen and will not be able to concentrate on settling things down.

But in spite of these concerns, Interior Minister Gross seems to be satisfied with the current situation. He noted that despite some shortcomings, a lot of good work has been done and this was not the time to look for mistakes or point finger at the persons at fault. He added that an evaluation would be made after the IMF/World Bank meeting.