A police academy course for new recruits will start as planned next week despite the closure of all educational institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Times of Malta has learnt.

The decision to proceed with the course for 47 new recruits in person and without any video conferencing element has caused concern among some senior officers.

All schools, childcare centres, the university and the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology have been shut since March 13 as part of the first measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

However, the Home Affairs Ministry confirmed the police academy course would go ahead.

“The police force provides an essential service to the general public and therefore the training of new recruits cannot be postponed any longer,” a spokeswoman said. “The police basic training course for constables turns civilians into police officers and greatly differs from any other basic academic course.”

She said the intensive training sessions at the academy serve to instil a sense of belonging, discipline, motivation and confidence. Apart from the theoretical aspect, classes also include physical lessons, practical sessions and roll calls.

One senior officer told Times of Malta the move “didn’t make sense” and suggested the police considered themselves “above the law” when other educational establishments had to shut.

“It’s also baffling how in this day and age the academy doesn’t have the basic online tools in spite of its budget,” the officer said.

Despite the measure to shut all educational institutions, which became law through the introduction of a legal notice, the police academy will still hold lectures for its new recruits and lecturers were even asked to attend in person as the lessons could not be delivered online.

The ministry spokeswoman said the decision was taken following discussions with the Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci, who issued the authorisation after the academy agreed to implement measures that safeguard the safety of both staff and recruits.

She said the 47 recruits have been divided into two groups and will be given training separately in large lecture halls which allow social distancing measures to be practised properly, as well as proper ventilation. She said the groups will also be using different facilities at any given time so as to limit contact between them.

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