Internal “organisational justice” needs to be the first step which takes place for people to start regaining faith in the police force after it was rocked by a recent overtime scandal, lawyer and former police inspector Mary Muscat said.
Interviewed by The Malta Independent media consultant Rachel Attard on the latest episode of Indepth, Muscat, who served with the Malta Police Force for 13 years before moving into academia and lecturing at the University of Malta and the Academy for the Disciplined Forces, spoke of what is required for people to regain faith in the Police Force.
Malta’s Police Force was rocked over the past weeks after a whistleblower exposed an overtime and fuel abuse racket which has since resulted in the arrest of 41 officers from the Police’s Traffic branch – a number equivalent to over three quarters of the 50-strong unit.
Asked what exercise was needed, Muscat said that while the tools needed are there, the duration and length of time that are needed for this exercise to be a success and for a positive view of the police being rekindled is what is of most concern.
“Organisational justice needs to be first. You need to show your teeth,” she said, although she noted that this shouldn’t take the form of the equivalent of a public stoning.
“But you need to start from seeking organisational justice internally – and justice must be seen to be done. Then slowly we will get there,” she said.
A point of significant concern for Muscat, however, is that the first six months of 2020 will see around 400 policemen and policewomen reach 25 years of service, hence having the option to retire from the force.
This figure is the equivalent to around 25% of the force as a whole, and what is concerning is that the vast majority – if not all – of these are not interested in renewing their stay in the force, even if they still have years to give.
Muscat puts that down to this most recent scandal: “There is no incentive for them to stay on. Why would they stay when the uniform has been turned to what it is?”
The scandal, she said, has damaged the whole police force. Because of the egoism of a few, their colleagues across other branches and units are feeling the backlash as well, she said while also noting that “moral responsibility” must also be shouldered besides from legal representation.