Retired police associations and policemen voiced their demands for higher salaries and better workplace conditions and resources during Turkish National Police Week.
National Police Week is celebrated from April 3-10 with various events honoring the police. Also, the week marks the 168th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Police.
In addition to celebrations, speeches and other events highlighting the role and importance of the police, Turkish National Police Week was a good opportunity to talk about the problems, challenges and demands of the police.
Speaking to Today's Zaman, a retired policeman from the International Police Association of Turkey, who prefers to remain unidentified, said the educational status and motivation of today's policemen are far better than in the past. However, it is imperative to improve the salary of police officers, retired police officers in particular, he said.
“Considering the fact that there is often overtime work in this job and that police officers are psychologically affected by the people and incidents they have to encounter while performing their job, policemen deserve a better salary than what they receive now,” the retired policeman said.
However, an increase in salary is not the only demand of the police. Semsettin Topcu, police inspection chief of the Umraniye Police Department, who has been working as a policeman for 30 years and will retire in two months, said the greatest obstacles of the policemen when performing their duty are the poor working conditions, insufficient resources and lack of policemen.
He said the number of policemen working in a district's police station, the size of the police station and resources such as police cars are determined according to the population of the district.
Thus, considering the fact that 400,000 people live in Umraniye district, 130 policemen and a 2,000-square-meter police station are required for the police to function sufficiently in that district, Topcu said. However, there are currently 58 policemen working at the 350-square-meter police station in Umraniye, which makes it very difficult for the police to work effectively, he noted.
“It is a universal fact that proper service is possible only with proper materials and conditions. However, in every police station I have ever been in I saw the same problem -- insufficient physical conditions. If this problem continues to be unnoticed, I will start thinking that National Police Week is nothing but smoke and mirrors,” Topcu noted.
Another problem Osman Sahin Guven from the Retired Policemen Solidarity Association mentioned is the psychological pressure exerted by senior policemen on their subordinates. Guven said senior policemen put enormous pressure on their subordinates with their disciplinary rules, which are tighter than they are supposed to be, he says. Nearly 70 policemen committed suicide last year.
In a recent development, Turkey's first police labor union, Emniyet-Sen, was established late last year. However, many opposed the Emniyet-Sen, arguing that the police cannot establish a labor union, even though there is no legal obstacle for police to do so. Claims emerged in the media in January that the founders of Emniyet-Sen received warnings for dismissal unless they close the union and debates within the police community still continue as to whether police officers should seek improved working conditions and better salaries through labor unions, while Emniyet-Sen members say they are determined not to give up their union.
Police honored with various celebrations
Various kinds of events marked National Police Week across the country.
In Manisa, the personnel of the Alasehir District Police Department donated blood to the Turkish Red Crescent (Kizilay). The department's head, Mehmet Tasci, said policemen constitute an example for society and so they hoped their move would pave the way for more blood donations.
In Kayseri, as in many other provinces, groups of policemen visited the graves of police officers, praying and placing flowers on the graves.
In Malatya, policemen planted trees across the province, with locals helping out. Karate and table tennis tournaments were organized for the police in Erzurum.
In another unusual event marking the 168th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish National Police, policemen wearing Ottoman-style outfits controlled traffic on Ankara streets. They stopped some vehicles, warning drivers to wear seat belts if they were not wearing them and thanking those wearing seat belts.
Bulgaria's Kircaali Regional Police Department paid a visit to their Turkish colleagues in Edirne to celebrate Turkish National Police Week. The Bulgarian police group then played a friendly volleyball match with their Turkish colleagues.
A day after the match between the Turkish and Bulgarian police, another police delegation came to Edirne from Greece for the celebration. Edirne Chief of Police Cemil Ceylan said both visits strengthened their cooperation with the two neighboring countries.