'From a blue wall of silence to a blue wall of integrity': Gafà praises officers for acting on brutality case

Angelo Gafà says he was saddened by the alleged racially motivated police brutality case, and says it is not representative of the police corps

Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa

Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà said he was saddened by the alleged racially motivated police brutality case of last month, but was encouraged by the integrity of the officers who reported the case.

Interviewed by Andrew Azzopardi on Radio 103 Malta’s Heart on Saturday morning, Gafà said that the incident is not representative of the police corps.

Three officers, all of whom were stationed at the Hamrun police station, are pleading not guilty to charges of kidnapping, abuse of authority, illegal arrest, holding a person against his will, two counts of attempted grievous bodily harm, and two counts of causing slight injury, the bodily harm charges being aggravated by racial motives.

“The police corps not only does not tolerate racism but treats it very seriously – we should focus on how police acted when learning of the case,” he said.

Gafà said that once the reports were received, experienced officials, including the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) were tasked with the investigation.

He said that he was encouraged by the fact that police officials reported their colleagues.

“This means that the culture renewal within the corps is bearing fruit. We are shifting from a blue wall of silence to a blue wall of integrity,” Gafà said.

He emphasised that during his tenure, the code of ethics for police was revised and that it was now possible for officials to make anonymous and confidential reports.

35% decline in cases of violence against officers in 2021

Gafà said that thanks to the implementation of bodycams, there was a 35% decline in violent cases against police officers in 2021.

He acknowledged that some members of the force were resistant to them at first, but he added that they were eventually convinced that they would be helpful in their defence against false accusations.

Questionned by Azzopardi on the use of large SUVs on the road by the Rapid Intervention Unit, Gafà said that the vehicles were equipped for emergency situations.

“RIU officials are first responding officers – they save people from suicides and other perils. They are always armed as they continuously face life and death situations.”

He stated that the Malta police force follows the British model, where officers are routinely unarmed with lethal weapons, and make use of non-lethal equipment like tasers, to de-escalate situations.

Gafà defended the police’s track record on road inspections, saying that up until October of this year, police had issued over 1,000 criminal charges to motorists. These charges include dangerous driving, negligent driving, drivers without a license, and driving under the influence.

He said that 1,600 charges were issued in 2021.