On 15 December, just before 8 AM local time, an explosion rocked Poland’s national police headquarters. This was reportedly caused by a RGW-90 rocket launcher which the head of Poland’s police force, Inspector General Jarosław Szymczyk, claims to have fired off by accident. Szymczyk ended up with temporary hearing loss and was taken to hospital; another civilian employee was also lightly injured but not hospitalized. Upon discharge from the hospital, the chief of police told his side of the story to Polish media. He said he received the weapon as a gift from the chief of Ukraine’s police force on 11 December.
The exact type of anti-tank weapon accidentally fired by Szymczyk has not been confirmed but its is widely speculated to have been an RGW-90, which Ukraine has received from a number of countries including Germany and the UK. Szymczyk told Wiadomosci that:
“The first meeting with the Chief Commandant of Ukraine’s National Police, Ihor Kłymenko, took 1.5 hours. We talked among other thing about material aid. At the end of the meeting we exchanged gifts as is customary. I gave the general [commandant] some modest police gadgets – a wallet, pen, business cards and a bottle of Polish alcohol. He gave me the launch tube of a grenade launcher which he said was spent, unloaded, safe and converted into a speaker which can be used via Bluetooth. He even demonstrated how the speaker works.”
Along with the speaker, the Polish chief received what he says he was informed was a spent launcher. He then said he accidentally fired off the weapon while repositioning it in his office; the anti-tank rocket pierced through the 3rd story floor and ended up on the ground floor. According to Polish media, the hole in the floor was about the size of a dinner plate.
The incident has sparked massive backlash in Poland with 80% of surveyed respondents calling for the head cop to step down. Many have questioned how a rocket launcher was allowed to be brought into the office of the police headquarters and how it was possible that no one checked whether it was really safe. Others expressed disbelief at the idea that it’s possible to accidentally discharge a 90mm AT rocket without significant negligence. One news media report even noted that relatively recent renovations of the commandant’s office had cost the taxpayers 3 million Polish zloty ($680,000 USD).
Some Polish commentators have suggested the chief could be charged with illegal possession of weapons, illegal transportation of weapons, destruction of property, public endangerment and negligence. However, there is no indication that there are any plans for the state to proceed with legal action against Szymczyk.
It should be no surprise that the absurd situation attracted widespread ridicule in both Polish traditional and on social media generating a considerable number of memes, like the one above.
The most recent government announcements have indicated that the Police Inspector General will not be replaced. The head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration said that the chief being dismissed or resigning is completely out of the question. Similarly, the Polish Press Agency has declared that reports of a replacement being sought are false.