Watch: Education is essential to policing – Dr Muscat

For the Police Force to be more independent from political interference, one needs to populate it with educated individuals, former Police Inspector Dr Mary Muscat told spoke with Dr Muscat about the overtime racket, the appointment of the next police commissioner and the independence of the police force.

Dr Muscat highlighted the importance of having educated individuals within the force. Tertiary-educated individuals may not only be graduated from law school, she noted; other subjects such as anthropology or sociology also touch upon subjects which are core to a police officer’s work.

“The more graduates the better,” Dr Muscat remarked. Having graduates means that the individual has already been exposed to certain ideas, and this leads to freedom in thought which in turn leads to freedom from political interference. She added that in the case of individuals already serving within the force, one should open the gates for them to continue improving and advancing in their education.

The new commissioner

Parliament is set to vote on the new method by which the police commissioner will be appointed.

Following the appointment of Robert Abela as Prime Minister after he was elected party leader when his predecessor disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stepped down, Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar handed in his resignation. Carmelo Magri was appointed as acting police commissioner until a new police commissioner is chosen.

The Opposition has called for the new police commissioner to be appointed by two-thirds of the House of Representatives while the Government has moved a bill proposing a new mechanism.

Speaking about the proposed methods for the appointment of the new police commissioner, Dr Muscat remarked that she found the term “grilling” demeaning since individuals who have served in the police force are used to interrogating others. She questioned the composition of the board, remarking that seven individuals are a lot to face alone. In addition, those who would be on the board should be competent in the area.

Asked about what qualities the new commissioner should have, Dr Muscat referred to the system in the UK. She highlighted that an incoming commissioner should at least have served in the police force. Furthermore, the new police commissioner needs to be a graduate who would not necessarily come from the law school, although preferably they would be the case since this would give one a certain advantage and tools such as the possibility to participate directly when a new law is being drafted and which impacts the police force directly.

Regaining trust in the Police

Dr Muscat remarked that every morning while she passes police officers directing the traffic, she feels sorry for them, and wonders what might be going through their mind in the aftermath of the allegations which surfaced recently regarding the overtime racket.

She noted that the decision to change the Traffic Section’s location from Floriana to Ta’ Kandja was a good start. “You need a clean break. This was a good start,” she said. Dr Muscat underlined that change needs to be visual and credible, adding that the latter requires more work and is possible to achieve in more ways than one.

When referred to the last Eurobarometer survey which showed that trust in the Police Force has gone down, Dr Muscat said this was worrying. Recalling her time in the police force, she said that when the police had arraigned judges over corruption, the public’s trust in the force had shot up.

Video: Miguela Xuereb

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