The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Police Force strategy - Moving forward, but don’t drop the ball

Monday, 28 September 2020, 07:34 Last update: about 23 days ago

The Malta Police Force launched its transformation strategy for the years 2020 – 2025 last week.

The strategy’s mission is to provide a professional and trusted policing service to ensure safety and security in partnership with the community.

It is no secret that the Force has faced trust issues over the past few years, mainly due to the constant changing of Police Commissioners who, for various reasons, were seen to be weak on holding those in power accountable. Add to that internal corruption scandals and a seeming reluctance to really go after the most powerful and today’s distrust in the Force becomes an easily understandable reality.

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The new Police Commissioner, Angelo Gafa, has been making some interesting moves since he was recently chosen for the post, most recent of which was the arrest of the Former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri following the conclusion of a magisterial inquiry.

But there is a lot which the Commissioner must do to renew trust in the Force, and it will not be achieved overnight.

The newly announced strategy offers the opportunity for the Force to improve how it deals with the public and could help limit internal corruption. It also deals with accountability, and mentions the drawing up of internal performance indicators for Units and publishing key performance indicators of the Force.

Some measures to help tackle internal corruption include continuous screening of police officers, offering adequate protection to whistleblowers, and conducting regular drug testing of personnel.

The Strategy also highlights the aim of communicating with the public “in a clear, consistent and transparent manner.” This would be achieved through holding frequent and open consultation with public interest bodies, holding periodic press briefings, listening to feedback from the public about the service by the police, and through other measures. Indeed building a rapport with communities is a great way for the Force to build contacts and receive tips. Projects like Community Policing are helping in that regard.

Other aims include: The implementation of human resources practices that reward the behaviours and attributes that are important to the police, which would include establishing a set of values and translating them into behaviours that are needed and taking a hard stand on discipline; Having a workforce with the right size and shape by restructuring, creating and closing units and clearly defining the remits and objectives of each unit, among other things.

This latter point is important in an ever changing world with criminals finding new ways to commit crime as technology advances. Indeed the increased focus on tackling financial crime over the recent years is a step in the right direction.

Some other points in the strategy which need further elaboration include ones that would see the Force engage with external communities and agencies to redistribute some work currently done by the Force, maximising the use of civilians where this is needed and relevant, and outsourcing administrative services to allow the Malta Police to focus on policing.  Now it is safe to say that by this, the Strategy does not mean core police work per se, but likely refers to administrative and bureaucratic issues.

The strategy itself will help guide the Force in the direction it intends to head in over the coming years. It will undoubtedly evolve in some manner or form as time goes on and will hopefully result in a stronger organisation, however the Force must remember that no amount of restructuring or written aims will substitute clear action. The Force must keep its eye on the ball, and focus on tackling the various corruption allegations that Malta faced over the past five years. In some instances it would be a bit late in the day, but as the saying goes, better late than never.

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