How is the government saving for a so-called rainy day?
Over the past few years, the Government has steadily worked on boosting the economy and generating economic growth. This strategic economic policy has led Malta to register one of the highest rates of economic growth in the European Union.
This policy has led to sound national finances which enabled us to effectively combat a global pandemic and save thousands of jobs. This approach does not only apply to economy but also to law enforcement.
As the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement our job is to ensure that our disciplined forces are well-equipped to face the challenges they deal with on a daily basis. That is why we are investing in new technologies, more training and high-end equipment so as to help our officers be more effective and efficient.
Recently the Police Force has achieved remarkable results. What is your take on this?
The developments we’ve seen over the past weeks have proven just how capable our Police Force is. The arraignments in the Sliema double-murder case and in other major crimes this year show just how committed our investigators are. The hard work of our officers led them to achieve results. I always knew that our Police Force is made of talented and professional officers, however, solving such a big case reinforces it in the eyes of the public.
How are law enforcement agencies using technology in their work?
As technology is used to commit more sophisticated crimes, law enforcement officers are increasingly using tech tools to combat crime. The latest innovations can make police work not only safer for officers, but the public as well.
As Minister for Home Affairs, I believe that we should use these evolving technologies for our benefit. That is why the Malta Police Force is investing in virtual simulators to help train its officers in different scenarios. The Rapid and Special Intervention Unit will be strengthening their training following an investment in a cutting-edge simulator.
The simulator has over 200 scenarios ranging from bullying to traffic stops, and burglary which RIU officers will be using as part of their training. The simulator also responds to artificial weapons so that the officers can feel as though they are in a real-life situation which will enhance their skill set in the real world and be better prepared to serve our communities.
How can this technology make a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable?
The MPF has also recently inaugurated a Domestic Violence simulator which will train members of the police to be more empathetic with victims. Through a virtual reality headset, officers will better understand the impact this crime leaves on children who experience domestic violence in their home.
Domestic violence is the third most reported crime in Malta, and we are making a conscious effort to deal with this reality. We mean business when we say we will work on domestic violence. In the next few months, we will launch the use of bodycams for police officers.
This investment will see all officers donning a bodycam for their own personal protection as well as for the protection of people they face. Many police forces around the world saw a drastic decrease in false allegations made against their officers once bodycams were introduced. They are important for police accountability, but the footage can also turn out to be useful for court proceedings too.
We usually speak about the Police Force, however, another important aspect of security includes the Civil Protection. What significant investments are being made?
Recently, we inaugurated a €1 million investment in the Civil Protection Department which will allow it to be better prepared for any circumstances that might crop up. Amongst the vast arsenal of equipment, this investment includes two rotating telehandlers which can be transformed into a forklift, a cherry-picker, a crane or any other piece of machinery that reflects the situation at hand.
One might ask, but is this really significant?
It definitely is since the Civil Protection is now set-up with state-of-the-art technology which means it can tackle anything from accidents in construction sites to infrastructural damage created by severe storms.
Even though Malta is known as the island where the sun always shines, we still experience our fair share of thunderstorms and gale force winds. Some storms have had a devastating impact on the country’s infrastructure and in these circumstances, the Civil Protection Department is called in to assist. That is why we made it a priority to invest in the latest equipment which is not only useful in these situations but can save valuable time during delicate operations.
How is the Civil Protection Department adapting to the new realities it is facing?
Training. I believe that our biggest asset is the human resources we have. We can have the best technology money can buy but if we do not have well-trained personnel who know how to use it, then our investment would be futile.
That is why, together with the Director General of the Civil Protection, we are emphasising on specialised training programmes for all officers. The realities of the job have also changed. The country has a lot more high-rise buildings than it did a few years ago and these bring with them their own set of safety challenges.
We also have more active construction sites. It is for this reason that we are adapting training programmes according to what is needed on the ground. Through a collaboration agreement with Malta Industrial Parks, the CPD is now also fully equipped to deal with fires that might happen in industrial estates. In just a few years, Malta’s industrial estates expanded substantially, and this meant that the CPD needed to equip itself to deal with these particular safety challenges. CPD is also providing training to those working in industrial estates so as raise awareness on safety at work.
What other projects are in the pipeline?
As a policymaker, it is my job to look to the future. The reforms we implement today will help us live in a better world tomorrow and that is what we are actively working on. We spent the summer working on important projects which will materialise in the coming weeks. Our focus is to ensure that law enforcement capabilities in the country are strengthened and that citizens feel safe and protected. My message to readers is for them to be a part of the change they want to see in the country. Law enforcement can be more effective if citizens are on their side. Collaboration with the community is essential and I encourage everyone to communicate with law enforcement officials on a regular basis. Together we can achieve more
This interview was first carried in the September issue of the Commercial Courier