The Malta Independent 8 August 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Police Force - As trust continues to plummet

Thursday, 13 February 2020, 09:35 Last update: about 7 months ago

From bad to worse. That is the only way to describe the dire situation of the Malta Police Force at the moment, in terms of its reputation in the eyes of the public.

The police are seen to be weak when it comes to dealing with people in power due to their perceived inaction over the vast amount of public allegations over the past years… and now several officers from the Traffic Branch have been arrested over alleged overtime abuse, fuel misappropriation and the collection of protection money.

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When the country views a section of society as being above the law, then more will try to break it.

This institution has been bashed for not doing their job, bashed for playing favourites, and bashed for being under the thumb of politicians. How can anyone expect the public to trust police officers when the police themselves are allegedly committing abuse?

At least it seems that the Internal Affairs unit is taking the investigation seriously, but the question arises as to how such alleged abuse was allowed to take place in the first place, within the main institution that is meant to set an example to the people in terms of abiding by rules and regulations.

Thankfully, there is a new minister responsible for the police, and one hopes that he is up to the gargantuan task of rebuilding the credibility of this drowning institution.

Indeed, a new Police Commissioner will be selected, and a new method for such an appointment has been announced. This person must be able to stand up to politicians, must be a person of undisputed good and strong character and have a shining reputation with zero political connections, as that is the only way the Corps could start piecing its reputation back together.

Aside from the damaged reputation, this situation is also creating logistical problems, given that more than half of the officers in the Traffic Section are being investigated. The Police already did not have enough officers on the ground, and so the situation now could only worsen.

This news has also been reported internationally, in the New York Times. Now Malta has already had its reputation beaten and tarnished when Joseph Muscat was Prime Minister, thanks to his inaction on several scandals, so having this situation reported internationally does absolutely nothing to help improve the country’s image.

Given that the indications are that the investigations began only after a letter from a whistleblower, then if the allegations are true this shows that the systems within the Corps are not working, given that a whistleblower was required to come forward in order for abuse to be uncovered.

Police Officers need to understand that they are not above the law. Indeed, they must follow the law to the letter, and cannot falter as they are kept to a higher standard given their position. They must be looked up to, but in order for that to happen, they must first clean up their institution. This newsroom has no doubt that there are many police officers who work diligently, correctly, and are proud of their work. But please, clean up the rest of the Corps, ensure that any internal wrongdoing is immediately reported and help rebuild the reputation of the institution.

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