Working conditions demotivating the police

Police inspector sheds light on the judicial system, police pay and people's perception of punishment

Police inspector Sandro Camilleri
Police inspector Sandro Camilleri

The compromised conditions under which the police work was brought out starkly in the television programme Reporter on TVM, with the inspector who heads the police prosecution unit pointing out that his take home pay is a mere €1,200 per month.

Inspector Sandro Camilleri works 46.5 hours a week, and is not paid overtime. He has almost 20 years of service to his credit. Camilleri also criticised the way that promotions are made, based on seniority rather than qualifications and skills.

He is proud to be pioneering the setting up of the Police Union, to give as much of a voice to those officers who until now have never had the opportunity to make their case about work practices and other forms of injustices.

Reporter presenter Saviour Balzan asked about the tools they need to work efficiently within the context of a court of law. “You lack the tools to prosecute. Your time is divided between investigation, reporting and maintaining a police presence at different events, aside from your commitments in court. Is this the truth, does it frustrate you?” he asked.

The reply was blunt. Inspector Camilleri said: Yes.

In Europe, he pointed out, Malta’s was the only police force which still prosecutes. “We follow the English system, which has not been in use otherwise for about 40 years. When we travel abroad and say that we are prosecutors as well as police officials, we are often met with disbelief. There are times when there is a conflict of interest – after investigating and becoming involved, we are expected to prosecute as well.

“Another problem is that officers are primarily either investigators or prosecutors. Not everyone can do both well. A problem which police officials face is that they cannot dedicate enough time to investigations because their mornings are spent in court. That is a reality. As head of the prosecution unit, I see the reality of the problem.”

Asked whether there tentative discussion to change this state of affairs, Camilleri replied he was in the legal office with the police commissioner before the latter took up his post. “Yes,” he said, “we have spoken about this and he agrees that we must move away from this system. We’ve gone as far as preparing a report”.

It was pointed out to the inspector that often the police bring forward a case that is less than watertight, which may result in hostily.

Asked whether this was the fault of the police or the judiciary, Camilleri said: “some cases may be weaker than others, based on evidence. But this hostility bothers me and the terminology used bothers me. The use of the words ‘we won the case’ or ‘we lost the case’ – who won or lost? Our job is to provide all the evidence we can.”

Camilleri said that a problem they often faced is how to deal with minors. “If a minor has broken probation, we have no secure place to send them.

“One frustrating element in this regard is that many people do not seem to care about any punishment other than imprisonment. They consider a suspended sentence or probation as the accused having gotten away scot free. Prison is the ultimate. Often minors have this attitude too. There is a perception of the system that only prison is real punishment.”

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