I am a Romanian music journalist, and as a Romanian music journalist I don’t really know much about the Romanian riot police, except that they show up when provincial mobsters get in a scuffle, raid some people's houses for drugs and lose their shit when fighting football hooligans or protesters.
Now that I've watched the Hymn of the Riot Police by Ciprian Istrate, though, I feel like I really understand them. Here's what I learned by watching the awesome music video Ciprian – a psychologist working for the Romanian riot police division in Mureș county – made with the help of the local riot police choir and his family.
Romanian Riot Police Love DIY
Just like 1980s punk bands, they make everything themselves. Istrate told me that he came up with the idea, paid for making the clip and produced it all by himself. “All to morally support an institution that I love,” he told me.
The only problem with this is that he used officers who are paid from public funds and that, in the video, they appear wearing their official uniforms. In Romania it’s illegal to wear a police uniform with real stars and stripes on it, because it’s considered to be impersonating an officer. But I guess it’s OK if you’re a cop who’s just dicking around. Istrate confirmed this, telling me that his bosses all gave him the go ahead for this project.
They Are as Talented at Music as They Are at Keeping the Peace
Major Istrate told me that he started singing in 1998 and that he has written over 150 traditional Romanian folk songs. The guys singing the chorus are also riot policemen – distinguished members of the riot police choir, in fact – so one can only wonder what made them give up a career of reading music for one of reading people their rights.
They also seem to be rather talented at acting, as they perfectly mimic a special riot police operation for any would-be criminal to watch online and take notes.
They Keep Their Families Traditional, But Their Homes Modern
The classical Romanian macho man defines himself through his family, religion and patriotism. Or, rather, as any Romanian liberal will tell you, his homophobia, bigotry and xenophobia. That is why Istrate sings about guys in masks wielding machine guns in God’s name.
You can also see the Major's family in traditional Romanian villager clothes in the video, but, through all those sepia filters and pictures of saints on the walls, you can still see that he has a big-ass, modern house with nothing traditionally Romanian in it.
They Have to Pat Themselves on the Back, Because Nobody Else Will
Istrate told me the reason he made this song is to make the riot policemen find pride in their work because, let’s face it, an institution that owes tens of thousands of Euros to the people they wrongly arrested at protests needs all the encouragement they can get.
He is concerned that "the institution's true value is not being appreciated.”
Your Opinion Matters to Them, as Long as It’s Not Bad
Sadly, almost all the YouTube comments under this video are bad, so you can’t say this move helped them generate good PR for the riot police. Istrate said he expected this response, though, and takes full responsibility – whatever that means. I asked Daniel Manea, the press officer at Istrate’s riot police division, about the bad press and he said, “The opinions of people on the internet are irrelevant. Those people could be in trouble with the law, so nobody should pay any mind to what they say.”
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