Six police officers were suspended over drug use in the past two years, official figures show.

Five officers quit the force between 2021 and 2022 after four of them tested positive for illegal drugs and another one refused to take the test, a spokesperson for the police said in a reply to questions sent by Times of Malta.

All five – two sergeants and three constables – were suspended and, consequently, decided to resign.

A sixth officer – superintendent Maurice Curmi – tested positive for cocaine last Friday and has been put on precautionary suspension, the spokesperson said.

Tests from all six officers were requested through a procedure known as ‘drug testing with cause’, which is when the police receive intelligence that gives reasonable cause to suspect that an officer has used an illegal drug.

Reasonable suspicion may arise from the officer’s odours, movements, emotions, speech and actions or if there is evidence that they consumed the drug.

Curmi had already tested positive for cocaine almost three years ago – in January 2021 – and he tested positive again on Friday.

“A laboratory-confirmed positive drug test result was received and the officer has been precautionary suspended in terms of the Public Service Commission Disciplinary Regulations while disciplinary proceedings in line with the provisions of regulations have been initiated,” the spokesperson said.

Police rules state that testing should be carried out without any form of advance notice and officers who refuse to take the test are penalised as if they took the test and were found to be positive.

When he tested positive for cocaine in 2021, Curmi was acquitted because the test used on him was valid for clinical but not legal purposes.

On Monday, sources confirmed to Times of Malta that the police had kept the superintendent’s past behaviour in mind and kept a close check on him.

They said the force would not tolerate any abusive or unlawful behaviour and was ready to go after any officer who broke the rules, even if they were senior officers.

Police should be arresting drug dealers, not doing business with them

The police must take drug abuse among its officers extremely seriously, another police source said, because police officers should be arresting drug dealers, not doing business with them.

But most crucially, an officer – especially a high-ranking one – who buys drugs is highly susceptible to corruption and extortion from the dealer, the source added, who will often ask for favours in return for keeping the officer’s drug habit a secret.

Efforts to contact Curmi for comment over the past days were unsuccessful.

Police officers undergo drug testing according to a standard operating procedure (SOP) on illegal drugs and alcohol misuse that was launched in 2021. The SOP binds all police officers – irrespective of rank – to be subject to mandatory random routine drug testing, testing with cause, and to breathalyser tests when there is reasonable suspicion that they are under the effect of excessive alcohol.

Times of Malta had reported that one police officer was found under the influence of alcohol in May last year.

The policy also obliges all officers wishing to apply for a promotion to be screened.

“Apart from the random routine tests and testing with cause, gazetted officers – meaning those officers who have a rank of inspector or higher – are also subjected to mandatory routine screening at least once every two years,” the police spokesperson said.

“Positive and inconclusive results are referred for confirmation by an independent recognised laboratory.”

If the laboratory confirms the positive result, the test is referred to the Drugs Squad for necessary criminal investigations and the officer risks disciplinary proceedings that might lead also to criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri told parliament this week that 52 police officers are currently suspended from their duties due to ongoing criminal proceedings.

Most of them are suspended over the police overtime racket that was revealed in early 2020.

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