Whether it is illegal hunting or domestic violence, police in Gozo are struggling

Last Thursday’s revelation by the NGO Birdlife Malta that Gozo has had no police officers assigned to enforcement of hunting laws this season draws attention to the beleaguered state of Gozo’s police force. And it is not limited to hunting-related enforcement – a string of resignations, retirements, and reassignments has left the police in Gozo struggling in a range of investigative areas. Sources told this website that they have also been notably grappling with investigations into domestic violence, which account for the bulk of police reports in Gozo.

Birdlife said last Thursday that only one team has been assigned to policing hunting in Malta and none in Gozo – and that this has led to a sharp increase in incidence of illegal hunting.

A greater flamingo found shot in Gozo (Source: Birdlife Malta)

Sources have told this website that in Gozo there have been attempts to provide cover in creative or desperate ways: instructing the rapid intervention officers or even traffic police to do spots of hunting-related patrolling. 

The sources said that these units are unsuited for wildlife-related law enforcement, and that the Rapid Intervention Unit has specific tasks of being the first responders for arising incidents.

Such juggling of roles also reinforces the sense of the beleaguered state of the force, affecting further the morale.

Low morale and haemorrhage due to resignations now affects virtually every level of the police force throughout the islands. Even the high-profile Financial Crime Investigation Department (FCID) has lost 19 of its officers, mostly due to resignations, in a year. The FCID is in charge of investigations into financial crime – corruption and bribery, money laundering, fraud, and so on – and the loss of a fifth of its complement has thrown at least some investigations into disarray, and hobbled its ability to conduct rigorous, timely investigations.

Among the districts, disgruntlement appears to be particularly intense in Gozo, where shortage due to resignations and retirements has been exacerbated by reassigning twelve officers – two sergeants and ten constables – to the community policing programme.

Announcement by community police in Gozo (Source: Facebook)
Community police take part in aikido (martial arts) session (Source: Facebook).

Sources told this website that two inspectors in Gozo are not enough to handle the load of investigative work and do thorough investigations. Moreover, although the bulk of police reports in Gozo are about domestic violence, the two inspectors lack specialized knowledge into domestic violence – unlike Malta, Gozo does not have a unit assigned specifically to domestic violence.

Hunters in Gozo allegedly chasing birds of prey on motorbikes (Source: Birdlife Malta)

Officers who spoke to this website blamed various things for the resignations. These range from interference or bad management to the loss of supplementary income that used to be drawn for police work on the side – police officers assigned to guard banks for example, who used to be paid by the banks. (Bank officials who spoke to this website said they preferred to have police officers because they were armed, and theoretically more inclined to fight back in the event of an armed robbery, as opposed to the unarmed security officers who have replaced them.)

All of this has led to loss of confidence within the police’ rank and file towards the police leadership.

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