The interior minister in Poland’s new government has announced that police officers will no longer cover their faces and has declared that the force “will not serve as a security agency” anymore for Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
“Yesterday, the new police chief…introduced an order ending face veiling during interventions,” Marcin Kierwiński told broadcaster TVN, saying that this was part of “the process of restoring trust in the Polish police”.
Minister spraw wewnętrznych i administracji Marcin Kierwiński :
„Policja nie będzie służyć jako agencja ochroniarska jednego czy drugiego polityka. Nie będzie wykorzystywana do tego, by chronić prywatne imprezy pana posła Kaczyńskiego”. pic.twitter.com/NtSjneCNGg
— 𝑰𝒇𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒂 Magda Gibbson☢ (@IfritaMagda) December 29, 2023
Under the PiS government, which ruled Poland from 2015 until earlier this month, the police recorded the largest decline in public trust among major institutions, according to regular polling by IBRiS. The force was regularly accused of using excessive force and of being under political influence.
Critics in particular noted a constant police presence around the home of Kaczyński in Warsaw, even when the PiS chairman held no formal state position. During some anti-government protests, hundreds of officers were deployed to the area.
Kierwiński told TVN that “the police will not serve as a security agency for one politician or another” and “will not be used to protect Mr Kaczyński’s private events”.
The latter was a reference to the large police presence deployed during monthly commemorations of Smolensk plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczyński, Jarosław’s brother, and 96 others.
Żoliborz, dom Jarosława Kaczyńskiego pic.twitter.com/0yBDh7qol5
— KSIĄŻĘ PÓŁKRWI (@batofthedungeon) December 13, 2020
Before Kierwiński’s interview, the chairman of the police trade union, Rafał Jankowski, had clarified that the new acting chief of police, Marek Boroń, assured him that some officers would be granted the right to cover their faces during certain operations.
“As the commander conveyed to me today, riot units, counter-terrorist services and the strike teams of the criminal divisions will be able to use face coverings. And this is, in my opinion, a good solution,” Jankowski told the InfoSecurity24 news service.
Jankowski said that discussions with new police chiefs were also taking place on whether and in what form police officers should carry officer identification badges.
Police physically removed an opposition MP from outside a meeting being led by the prime minister and took her into a van.
The opposition has condemned the incident, likening it to Putin’s Russia, but the interior minister has defended officers’ actions https://t.co/l4O52ECyJ8
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 20, 2023
Trade unions have proposed that, following the example of police in other countries, Polish officers should wear badges showing a personnel number rather than the officer’s name.
“In this way, the police officer will not be anonymous and it will be easy to identify what he or she was doing during operations. If there are objections, the data will go to the relevant authorities, but the police officer’s privacy will be protected,” he said, adding that the new acting chief “shares the trade unions’ idea”.
In recent years, the police have often been accused of not using any badges to identify police officers.
Main image credit: Maciek Jazwiecki / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.