Meanwhile in Cuckooland 226

The police is not having a good time recently. Everyone is still talking about the chief of police blowing his office with the grenade launcher, and now Gazeta Wyborcza informs about his brother facing five different changes related to a tax scams. Usually, people accused of crimes of that scale are arrested, but in this particular case a prosecutor closely related to the Minister of Justice intervened and so the police chief’s brother can enjoy his freedom.

Click HERE to read the previous part of the series
Click HERE to see all chapters of the series so far.

But the appalling standards in the police can be seen also in the lower ranks. The officers know, that it’s not only their boss who doesn’t have to be worried about the consequences of their actions. On 2nd of January, a police patrol called to a fire, they invited two teenage girls, witnesses to their vehicle. After checking their documents, they suddenly drove off, basically kidnapping the girl. The short drive, during which the terrified girls were subject to comments with erotic subtext, ended with a crash on the tree. At this moment the policemen told the girls to “get to fuck”, even though they were injured in the accident (one of them quite significantly). “To tell the truth, I am happy we crashed” – said the 17 years old girl – “I was really worried about what those cops are planning to do to us”.

The policemen worked for the next two days as if nothing happened. Only after the press (and then some opposition MP) got interested in the case, they called in sick, and only after it was clear that it won’t be possible to swipe it all under the carpet, did the older of the police officers got suspended (the younger one just started work, so it was assumed that he was pressured by his older colleague).

It seems then that as we had a recurring topic of the government limos crashing a couple of years back, this year the main character of the series might be the police officers. And this is not a surprise. Regular readers might remember the cops leaving the service after PiS’s takeover due to the politicization of the force. That means the most experienced cadres leaving and the police were struggling to replace them – we mentioned the shortage of cops quite a few times in this series too. The police simply was no longer an attractive career option, as not only it was turned into Kaczyński’s private army, but also the pay was not even great. True, the salaries were boosted recently, but still, with PiS drive to rebuild the army, if you are into uniformed services, this might be an option for you. True, the army is politicized too, and you might be forced to harass refugees on the Belarussian border, but at least nobody sees you. If you are a cop, dispatched to harass opposition activists, everyone will see you and you’ll become a laughing stock.

Like those guys who were stuck out on the cherry picker crane in Warsaw a week ago. As you might remember from previous chapters – like the one from a month ago – there is a group of activists who organize happenings during Kaczyński’s monthly celebrations of the Smoleńsk plane crash month-inversary. As the police do everything to prevent their (legal) events, they tend to be stopped and harrassed even on the way. So this month they hired a flat right in the centre of Warsaw and arrived there the night before. As it turned out, this week Kaczyński was not present, as he was ill, so having nothing to do they were just enjoying their morning coffees in the kitchen when suddenly two anti-terrorist officers arrived outside their second-floor window in the basket mounted on a cherry-picker crane. Of course, the activists could not refrain from mocking such idiocy, so at first, they offered the officers coffee or tea along with the crossaints. The cops refused, saying they are on diet. Asked what they are doing there, they informed they are posted there “for activist’s safety”.

Meanwhile, journalists down on the streets were not allowed to enter by the officers’ “securing activities of the cherry-picker truck”. They were making idiotic excuses – one said the building is being checked due to a bomb threat, the other that there is a gas leak. Asked if, since there is a gas leak, the building should not be evacuated, the policewoman directed the reporter to a police spokesperson.

So to sum it up: dozens of police officers were engaged, as well as the fire brigade’s vehicle. Two of the cops were hanging up in the air outside a flat for over an hour, meanwhile, their colleagues downstairs were lying to the press ( checked with both the fire brigade and gas network, and there was, of course, no gas leak). And all because some people who don’t like Kaczyński were drinking coffee together.

I already told you how little respect I have for the police, but the record number of memes that flooded the internet show that I am not the only one. This one, pretending to be a child drawing, shows everything that recently made police a laughing stock: Apart from the cops on the crane, we can see the grenade launcher scene, Igor Stachowiak being tortured with a taser, women’s rights protesters attacked with pepper gas, the police car crashing into a tree with two girls in the back, as well as police throwing confetti from the helicopter. Readers of this series might remember every single of those situations, except for the scene in the middle where a cop is chasing a child that ate a bun worth 0.33 zł (about 0.07 Euro).

Of course, turning the police into PiS private army apart from making this formerly respected force a laughing stock and relaxing discipline has some other downsides. All of that – harassing the opposition, protecting Kaczyński’s events or simply his home – comes at a great cost to the taxpayer. But apparently, PiS thinks that the state is its own playground. One of the younger PiS politicians decided he wants to propose in a romantic atmosphere and took his wife-to-be down to the coal mine. Very romantic. I had a friend who proposed in the Wieliczka salt mine. The thing is, that this particular mine was a working mine, not a museum. Ordinary people are not allowed there. And surely nobody would stop any activities in the mine for 30 minutes just for you or me to propose to our girlfriend. Even the miners themselves don’t think they would be allowed to do so. And yet, because some Kaczyński’s boy-toy wanted to be romantic, the state-owned company incurred losses in the range of 100 000 zł.

But public money is not always used for private gains. Sometimes it’s for the party’s good. Zbigniew Ziobro’s party is just a satellite to PiS but has greater ambitions. They are known for abusing public money for their party’s gain in the past and now they tried to run a poll about their changes in the oncoming election disguising it as a real research of the law school they run at the ministry.

It seems the biggest Polish oil company Orlen is used for the same purpose. Controlled by PiS man, Daniel Obajtek, Orlen uses its de facto monopolist position to manipulate the prices and at the same time, they try to influence voters by claiming Poland has the cheapest fuel in Europe. True, Poland had one of the cheaper fuels, but not when compared to the average salary. Orlen for a long time is accused of boosting fuel prices to increase its profits to boast about record profits under the PiS government, but in December it was clear when it turned out in December that Orlen sells fuel cheaper to Czechs than to Poles (Orlen owns Unipetrol and the 400 Benzina garages in Czech republic). How is that possible? Simply: in the Czech Republic Orlen has to face competition and a government that seriously considers taxing excessive income. Meanwhile, in Poland, where they have de facto monopoly for the wholesale price of fuel, they can pump the wholesale price up and then use those profits to reduce the retail price a little to allow PiS to claim that they take care of the Polish drivers.

The other money-related issue comes from the schools. As regular readers might know, in Poland religion is taught at schools as a voluntary subject, as per the concordate. Despite the fact that the concordate requires Poland to organize the teaching, but not to fund it, it’s the taxpayer that picks up the bill. When most Poles still felt a connection to the church that was not a big problem. But as church attendance fells dramatically, so does the interest in the religion classes. Well over 1000 of Polish schools don’t organize religious teaching at all anymore due to lack of interest. Other schools appeal to the Bishops for granting permission to reduce the number of hours (which they can give or not, and nobody can do anything about it). But the problem is that while fewer and fewer kids attend religion, the cost grows – as no matter if 30 or 10 pupils go to the class, the teacher still has to be paid the same, in line with teachers of the other subjects. That causes unrest amongst parents, as when more kids give up on religion, the problem with widely ignoring the rule that voluntary subjects should be either at the first or last hour in the day becomes more and more problematic, as dozens of kids find trapped in school with nothing to do when their colleagues have their religious education. The parents of the kids suffering the results of PiS’s ill-fated education reforms would also like the head teachers to spend money on the more important subjects, like extra math classes, etc. but not much can be done here… Personally, I am only happy to see that, as this will not bring the church any new followers.

No wonder the government is looking for new sources of income. Seeing that more and more Poles turn to rail travel – partially due to rising prices of fuel, but also thanks to the fact that the Polish railways recently improved greatly in quality – they decided to introduce a drastic rise in ticket prices. That was met with the protests of passengers, supported by the opposition MP from the left-wing Razem party, which strongly supports a shift from individual means of travel to public transport. In the answer, the minister of infrastructure accused Razem MP’s of “liquidation of the rail connections in the 1990s” (in the first decade after 1989 Poland suffered with dramatic reduction of rail lines comparable only to infamous Beeching’s cuts in the UK). The fun thing is that most of Razem MP’s are in their 30s, so in the 1990s they were at best able to dismantle some of the tracks of the toy train set in their kindergartens…

Meanwhile, the hunting season is on, and there is nothing new here. As usual, they just blast from their shotgun to everything hoping they will shoot a wild boar. This time suspected wild boar turned out to be someone’s house and another hunter and yet another hunter. The latter died from injuries, and the former’s life was saved after he was airlifted to the hospital. There is no information if any wild boars were shot too.

Sometimes I feel nothing is changing. Hunters enjoy the special protection of the ruling party. If not for that surely, by now someone should draw some conclusion and get the hunter community under stricter control. It is public knowledge that drinking during hunts is common, the procedures are commonly ignored and once they get gun permit, until recently they didn’t have to submit to any medical or psychological checks (the law has been changed recently, but still the first date of those periodic checks is well ahead). And judging from the number of accidents and overhunting of the Polish animal stocks, surely it’s time to reduce the population of hunters dramatically?

This piece was written for Britské Listy
Illustration: romfreak



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