Domine dirige nos

If our police officers are not respected and truthful in their work, one should not be too surprised if this little republic of ours loses all the respect it deserves.

If the Maltese police have lost the Maltese people’s confidence, they have only themselves to blame.
If the Maltese police have lost the Maltese people’s confidence, they have only themselves to blame.

If the Maltese police have lost the Maltese people’s confidence, they have only themselves to blame.

Responsibility is of course also to be laid heavily at the door of the countless politicians who have stood by and did absolutely nothing to address the matter.

The police need a shake up and this belief that there was once upon a time a great police force is simply hogwash.

The Maltese police were never great, it is simply that today they are worse, and sadly they have suffered from chronic ineffectiveness.

I am not referring to the heavy handed and sadly embarrassing reaction of the police officers who manhandled a black person at the bus terminus and who happened to be a Hungarian citizen – and more importantly, was the victim of a racist attack, who was spat in the face and told to go back to his country by a Maltese woman who probably has more sub-Saharan traits in her DNA than she can imagine.

Indeed the police actions in this case are no different to what happens to black people in Paceville.

These racist actions are worrisome, deplorable and condemnable but cannot be considered as serious as the links and conflicts of interest many police officers have had and still have. The situation impinges on their independence.

For years we have known that police officers were not only underpaid but also very often too close to the criminal world. Furthermore many police officers have supplemented their income by getting involved in businesses on a full time and part time basis.

There are police officers, and I know quite a few, who are upright, but there are also some, who do really exist, who teeter dangerously on the edge of criminality.

Many are frustrated, sad and concerned that they are associated with bad apples and that nothing is done to rid the police force of this rot.

However, over the last four decades many Maltese police have shown themselves to be above the law and in bed with crime.

Only last week, we read about the fact that former Police Commissioner Ray Zammit’s wife was involved as a shareholder in a company with the notorious Joe Gaffarena. The company was involved in running an old people’s home.

Of course many people believe that Ray Zammit’s wife was a front for Ray Zammit himself. Just in the same way that some people in politics and the judiciary have allowed their business interests to be ‘taken up’ by their wives. At no point is Zammit known to have ever declared his interest, directly or indirectly, in an old people’s home.

Apart from the apparent problem of being involved in business, the very fact that Zammit was indirectly or directly involved with Joe Gaffarena justifiably created the perception that Zammit was either naïve, or else completely out of his mind.

Ray Zammit’s son, a police inspector, was not only hanging around with Joe Gaffarena’s son, he was also directly involved in prosecuting Joe Gaffarena’s son-in-law.

Gaffarena’s son-in-law had the misfortune of shooting and murdering his wife’s lover, after discovering some unsolicited hanky panky between Gaffarena’s daughter and a man.

The man died from gunshot wounds.

Daniel Zammit, as prosecuting officer, was clearly in the wrong for not having declared his conflict of interest. Indeed he was wrong in having his kind of association with that kind of person.

What is more worrying is that it is not clear what Zammit did, or did not do in the run up to this court case.

Former police commissioner Ray Zammit was considered for a very long time to be a very decent police officer and what one would call an outstanding and upright guy.

Indeed he was considered to be an upright police officer and was considered to be incorruptible.

Until that unforgettable recording leaked to the PN media (such a leak, by the way, does not seem to perturb Beppe Fenech Adami) and we quickly reached the conclusion that he was not fit for purpose.

Now the only reason that Daniel Zammit came under the spotlight is because he was boarded out from the police force in extra quick time, as expeditiously to take up a consultancy with Enemalta at the princely salary of €60,000.

Such a modus operandi by a perfectly young and healthy man could not fail to attract media attention.

To complicate matters further, Daniel Zammit was also the prosecuting officer in the smart meter readers corruption scandal. Which I guess is why Enemalta leapt to take him on board for such a more-than-decent income.

At least Minister Konrad Mizzi did the right thing and asked Enemalta to terminate Zammit’s employment.

Something which, I believe was not taken lightly by the Zammits.

Now the exploits of Ray Zammit and Daniel Zammit started under a different administration and continued well into the Labour government’s term.

But police officers and their intrinsic incompatibility does not seem to have a link or preference for any one political party.

Elton Taliana, another inspector who has been mentioned in court by me with the support of leaked police documents (not leaked by Police Ccommissioner Pietru Pawl Zammit) was hardly fit to be promoted from sergeant to police inspector.

But he was. And he was promoted a month before the 2008 election. He was, by sheer coincidence, the security detailed with Home Affairs minister Tonio Borg.

In the last 40 years we have witnessed dozens of police officers who have committed serious crimes, including murder.

There are bad apples everywhere
and any time, but there is a number of disproportionate cases of corrupt and criminal police officers which gives rise to concern.

Others may not be corrupt or criminal but simply unfit for their role.

Which brings me to some measures that can be introduced to address this very serious situation.

The first step needs to be taken by Home Affairs minister Carmelo Abela, who needs to pronounce himself clearly on the issue and take a strong stand. Saying nothing is not an option and
the minister responsible for the police would do us all a favour if he pronounced himself on the matter instead of keeping mum and, hopefully not, sweeping it under the carpet.
Secondly the police need an internal audit department to check and audit police officers in a very rigorous way. And to continuously follow the activities of its members, something that is not done at present.

And finally the wanting and unsatisfactory salaries of all the members of the police force need to be addressed and radically improved.

This is not a question of law and
order, but of how a civil, modern and democratic society functions. If our executive, the police force, is not trustworthy and not built on solid foundations we face a grave predicament as a country.

We have also seen that when the police force is under attack, police officers defend their interests and hide evidence and make it difficult for the truth to surface. Away with their maxim, Domine Dirige Nos.

If our police officers are not respected and truthful in their work, one should not be too surprised if this little republic of ours loses all the respect it deserves.

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