How is the police seen in Poland?

Police brutality before the election Poland: Police on duty for the PiS?

A Warsaw activist who wants to remain anonymous after the incident will probably never forget June 8, 2020: On this day, she was handcuffed by the police in front of her underage daughter and her parents. The accusation: serious burglary. But what she really did has little to do with this property crime. Together with other activists, the woman had opened display cases at tram and bus stops and exchanged the advertising media hanging there for her own posters with a political message. You accused Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski of crooked business during the Covid crisis. The politician is said to have bought inferior and overpriced breathing masks from a friend's company without a tender.

In order to be able to prosecute the activist who spread this uncomfortable message a few weeks before the presidential election, the police tried a paragraph that, in the opinion of their lawyer, does not apply at all, but allows the police to take action without instructions from the public prosecutor. Burglary is prosecuted ex officio and carries heavy penalties. The activist left the removed old advertising posters at the "crime scene" so that there can hardly be any question of theft. The burglary allegation is also on shaky ground, as a commercially available triangular key was used to open the advertising display cases. And: The value of all 15 removed posters barely exceeds 100 euros.

Do the police want to intimidate government critics?

Given the above, the police crackdown raises questions. Because in such minor cases the accused are usually only summoned for an interrogation and remain at large. Here, however, the activist's apartment was searched without a court order. The accused was then handcuffed, although she did not resist, and detained for almost two days without contacting her lawyer, even though she is legally entitled to do so. It is therefore clear to the opposition: The police wanted to intimidate the activist with this excessively harsh approach and prevent others from following in her footsteps.

Complaints about unreasonable harshness and brutality by the Polish police have been increasing for a long time. At the end of April, Polish citizens working in Germany organized a demo on the border bridge between Görlitz and Zgorzelec to open the border - including a father who had not seen his young son for a month. When the two of them greeted each other through the barrier that was set up on the border line, a Polish policeman immediately rushed to the fence and stopped the meeting. The case caused a stir across Poland.

Protests dispersed with tear gas

Polish entrepreneurs who demonstrated for a better protective shield for the economy in the Corona crisis also clearly felt the harshness of the law enforcement officers. They took to the streets several times a month in May. The scenario was repeated every time: the demonstrators, who remained peaceful and tried to keep a safe distance, were surrounded by riot police and driven apart with the help of tear gas and police clubs - much too brutal in their opinion. At one of the demonstrations, a parliamentarian was arrested even though he has immunity. Police defended themselves by claiming that he put himself in the police car, despite eyewitness videos suggesting otherwise.

The police in Poland do not even apply a reduced tariff to young people. When President Andrzej Duda recently signed an anti-lesbian and gay-hostile "family charter" as part of his election campaign, young people held a "rainbow disco" in protest in front of his official residence in Warsaw. The officials initially let them go, but after the rally was over, they followed selected participants through the streets, stopped them several hundred meters from the "crime scene" and muttered hefty fines to them. The reason: The action violated currently applicable Covid restrictions. If the young people had only danced, that would have been allowed, according to the officials. Since they held posters with political slogans while dancing, the officials classified the action as an unapproved demo.

Police brutality on behalf of politics?

Even journalists and photo reporters who report on such actions are repeatedly arrested and brought to justice as participants in an unauthorized rally, even though they were going about their work. When the editorial offices complain, the police claim that the reporters did not identify themselves as journalists. Here, too, the opposition suspects a target behind the action: the population should learn as little as possible about protests and the brutal police action before the upcoming presidential election on June 28th. The ruling PiS party is afraid that the approval ratings of incumbent Andrzej Duda will continue to decline in the course of the Corona crisis. News about dissatisfied fellow citizens could then influence one or the other voter and deepen the discontent.