“When you become a police officer and take the oath, you enter a system where you serve without fear or favour.”
These are the words of Dr Mary Muscat, a former police inspector and academic.
Speaking to Newsbook.com.mt, Dr Muscat explained that as police officers, they need to adjust to the new reality to serve and fulfil their duties.
Various mechanisms exist to ensure that they are fulfilling their oath. Dr Muscat highlighted however, that once such mechanisms are attacked and undermined, then police officers cannot function without fear or favour.
Asked about the overtime racket and the circumstances which led to this situation, Dr Muscat explained that there are various mechanisms to monitor police work – such as the internal affairs unit, internal procedures and the hierarchy of ranks, among others. These mechanisms ensure that if at any point there are wrongdoings or other shortcomings which can be either immoral or illegal, then at some point they are caught out through a system of checks and balances.
“Some people would complain that there are too many mechanisms and that it feels like ‘big brother’,” Dr Muscat remarked. However they are needed, she stressed.
Speaking about the overtime racket, she said that one needs to see the duration and the very specific circumstances which surrounded the collapse. One would ask whether it is a coincidence or whether it was intentional, she remarked.
Recalling her days as an officer, she added that she was shocked to read about the overtime racket. She would constantly ask herself whether she was being used, when she was still a police inspector.
Dr Muscat was also asked about internal accountability – on a personal level and at the level of police force. Citing the law, she said that there are various provisions in the law, as well as in the Criminal Code. Reflecting on the situation, she said that her theory is that there were more omissions than commissions. “By omission, one may have ignored what was happening, fearing backlash,” she further explained.
Asked whether the officers involved should have resigned, Dr Muscat replied that this was an option which was always given; however she was not comfortable with such an approach.
“If one is innocent and resigns, it is like you are admitting it without clearing your name,” Dr Muscat said. Some choose to resign to ensure that they will still receive their service pension.
“Although it is an option, one should consider the implications,” she added.
Some officers resigned before they were arraigned in court. To date no one has been arraigned in court over the alleged offences.
Independence of those carrying out the investigation
Asked whether the internal investigation should have been handed over to an external body, Dr Muscat replied that she did not mind that there was an internal investigation.
Citing a recent judgement by the European Court of Human Rights, Dr Muscat said that what one should look at is the independence of those investigating.
“Are the officers involved being given the same rights as a suspect? The right to a lawyer, disclosure?” she asked, adding that what worried her was that in circumstances such as these, she feared that they were not given the same rights.
Video: Miguela Xuereb