Rookie police officers „abusively” fined some Romanians for breaking lockdown rules during the COVID-19 state of emergency, the interior minister acknowledged Monday.
Marcel Vela said “very many young police officers who had only completed six months of Police Academy” were sent to police Romania’s streets during the lockdown.
“We needed the officers to cover all the missions,” Vela said, responding to criticism about the high level of fines handed out in recent weeks. “It is a titanic task at a national level,” he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale.
He said that Romanians had been fined 600 million lei, the equivalent of about 120 million euros since a state of emergency was imposed on March 16. The money will be invested in Romania’s chronically underfunded health service.
Fines range from 2,000 lei to 20,000 a hefty sum in a country where the average national salary is 3,000 lei. In the first two weeks of the lockdown, fines ranged from 100 to 5,000 lei.
The lockdown was designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. On Monday, Romania reported 13,512 people had been diagnosed with the virus which had caused 803 deaths.
he said allegations of abuse would be investigated and gave one example of a journalist at the Agerpres national news agency, and a woman working at a shop who were fined because they didn’t have papers from their employers.
“For every abuse, we followed up. For the local police, we contacted town halls, for the national police, the gendarmes and border police, we followed up at the county level, and at the ministry.”
He said people who considered they’d been unfairly fined should file a complaint.
In Romania, people can pay half the amount they were fined, if they pay within two weeks.