The Malta Police Force has launched a new strategy to restore people's trust in the corps.

Among others, the strategy - the fourth in 13 years - will protect whistleblowers within the force and ensure regular drug testing of employees.

Addressing the launch on Friday, Saviour Formosa, who chairs the police board of governors, said the force had lacked direction over the years. This new plan came with a new mission statement and a new vision drawn up as a result of lack of trust in the force. 

Formosa said the transformation had kicked off in 2015, when the police started to look into the strategic requirements needed to address a rapidly changing society and new types of crime. 

Three strategic documents in 1997, 1999 and 2004 had all failed due to lack of implementation and no monitoring, he said.

The new strategy aimed at providing a professional and trusted policing service to ensure safety and security in partnership with the community. The previous mission lacked the trust aspect and the societal approach, but the police force could not operate without people's help, he added.

Saviour Formosa, chair of the police board of governors. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaSaviour Formosa, chair of the police board of governors. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

'Disciplined forces resist change'

Addressing the launch, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà said that disciplined forces naturally resisted change.

This strategy included a defined action plan, with targets and deadlines, he said, adding that the police force wanted to be accountable, so its implementation will be monitored. 

"Other documents launched over the years were imposed. However, the police own this one because it was the force that asked for a reform and to adapt to a changing environment," he said. 

In 2017, when he was still CEO of the force, Gafà had applied for EU funds and Pricewaterhouse Coopers were chosen to draw up a strategy with the collaboration of UK police.

He added that while crime has decreased over the years, fear of crime has  increased, "so something, somewhere, must be wrong".

Gafà said the aim was to transform the force into a flexible, efficient, data-driven and community-centric one. 

11 objectives

The strategy is made up of 11 objectives, including improved communication channels with the public, periodic press briefings and welcoming feedback from the public. 

It also includes the drawing up of internal performance targets for each unit, public key performance indicators and the implementation of operational internal audit and quality control measures. 

There will be continuous screening of police officers and adequate protection will be given to whistle-blowers within the force. There are also plans to hold regular drug testing of employees.

The force will, according to the strategy, deploy a new integrated case management solution, introduce a workflow management tool and a human resources management system, and follow best IT practices. 

It will redirect the focus of officers to actual police work, and identify gaps that would require input from the private sector. It aims to maximise the use of civilians where needed and employ outside administrative services. 

Another objective is to close off units and create new units with clearly defined remits and objectives and ensuring a high level of preparedness to respond to disruption. One new unit will be the domestic violence unit.

Discussions are underway for the introduction of a gender neutral police uniform. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaDiscussions are underway for the introduction of a gender neutral police uniform. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

90% of police budget spent on salaries

Almost 90 per cent of the police budget is spent on salaries, which goes to show how the force relies on its human resources, Gafà said.

The strategy will also look into developing a skills gap analysis and expand exchange programmes.

It will revise the police constable training programme as well as provide in-service training, including sessions to deal with mental health and hate crime issues.  

The new strategy also plans on improving the quality of life of staff by enhancing family-friendly measures, improving the work environment and redesigning shift schedules with particular focus on officers' physical fitness and well-being. 

The strategy will aim at making the police force an employer of choice and not just one which attracts people who have nowhere else to go, offering prospective officers a clear career path, Gafà said.

Gafà added that there must be a top-down approach where police officers own the plan to transform the force into one which will benefit society. 

He also said that discussions are underway for the introduction of a gender neutral police uniform. 

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaHome Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri meanwhile said that the strategy was modern but respected the history of the force, recognising it was time for a change.

"There were a number of occasions where we spoke about initiatives and the change we wanted to see. A number of the initiatives, including some in the strategy, have already started being implemented.

“We made a conscious decision not to keep the document to ourselves... we want the force to be held accountable for the implementation of this strategy.”

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