Poland to Disband Police Unit That Quelled Solidarity

From Times Wire Services

A feared paramilitary force that once helped suppress the Solidarity movement will be disbanded, Poland’s Interior Ministry announced Friday.

The move came less than a month after the new prime minister, former Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki, formed the East Bloc’s first government that is not controlled by Communists.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the ZOMO riot police force, which wears helmets and high black-leather boots and carries shields and batons, will be disbanded to save money and remove an “irritation” to society.

ZOMO will be replaced by special “preventive patrol units” of the civic militia, as the police force is called, to be established in 22 of Poland’s 49 provinces, the state PAP news agency said.


Interior Ministry spokesman Wojciech Garstka said the power to deploy police will be reserved for the prime minister, a government presidium or the interior minister.

ZOMO, formed in 1956, developed a reputation as a brutish enforcer and was especially active after martial law was declared in December, 1981. It is believed to have at least 12,000 members.

Also on Friday, Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz told Parliament of moves by the new government to reshape the ailing, centrally planned industries set up under communism.

Poland, he said, will work toward creating “a modern market economy” along Western capitalist lines.

Balcerowicz said the main task is to slash inflation by limiting excessive wage increases and cutting state subsidies. He predicted that this program will “unavoidably bring about troubles in the functioning of enterprises and bankruptcies.” However, he said it is the only way to win approval for loans from international lenders to rebuild the economy.