The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

206

Sunday, 12 July 2020, 08:40 Last update: about 25 days ago

It’s Police Day, the 206th anniversary of the setting up of the Corps. It’s the day where we get to remember that colonialism gave us this hybrid institution of law enforcement at least 15 years before the great Metropolitan police force was set up. It wasn’t a perfect institution then, but it wasn’t as bad as the kind of policing we were subject to in Annus Horribilis number 205.

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Domine please forbid us from having more, even if it’s just one month of this. What’s really shocking is that we’re getting to know about the state of the uniform through the current dialogue going on between the institutions of Court and of the Police, brought to the fore by the media, the Fourth Estate. Had it not been for the live blogs reporting verbal and non-verbal delivery of such a dialogue, we’d have missed out on the truth.   

Not a pleasant conversation, to be honest. Earlier this week, Court told the Police that it’s not recognisable anymore. “And this is not who you should be either,” to which the Police replied: “You don’t understand and you’re not cognizant of what my work entails.” “Oh I know justice,” replied the Court. “Do you?” “You’re expecting too much out of me, I don’t have tools to work with and my kingdom only stretches as far as Gozo.”  “Are you following someone else’s order by any chance, rather than making up your own mind, based on your core values  − legitimacy, public consent, fairness,  to name but a few?” “Should I? I can be sued you know, waste the taxpayer’s money on paying damages. It’s high risk, a high level of exposure, a very high price to pay. Not going there, so don’t push me.” “So you’re saying that ‘high’ is the new ‘low’? It still doesn’t exonerate you.”

Governor Maitland must be turning in his grave. His price in taking up the governorship in mid-October 1813 was indeed high: he landed in the Grand Harbour in the middle of the plague. He had an epidemic to juggle and a Police Force populated by the veterani who frustrated the career soldier beyond words. Post-plague, Maitland was hell-bent on reforming the police.

Maitland was the second son of the Seventh Earl of Lauderdale. The Earl occupied a very peculiar post in the late 1700s: he was Lord of Police within the shire of Edinburgh. That meant that he was the Magistrate and was simultaneously in charge of the Police Force. Yes, the Courts ruled the Police two centuries and a bit ago; but the separation of powers doctrine placed the Police under the executive branch and not under the judiciary. Imagine, the Police wouldn’t be answering to the minister or to Cabinet but to the chief justice. We got a shadow version of that through the judicial police, but that’s a different legal creature. How would the Police have looked like nowadays had Maitland’s Scottish model materialised to the full? Would the Court be having this kind of conversation with the Police 206 years later?

It was also the age of Scottish Enlightenment. Maitland’s father was also Chancellor of the University of Glasgow. It’s ironic that distinguished scholars, such as Adam Smith, were giving public lectures there. Yes, Smith and his treatises on the economy. At best nowadays what we can muster is the Moneyval debate. So much for Maltese enlightenment!

 

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