He speaks off-the-cuff, he’s overtly emotional about the police force and he’s not afraid to flaunt his biceps, but Sandro Camilleri could very well be the ideal choice for police commissioner.
During an interview on Xarabank last Friday, Camilleri confirmed he is indeed thinking about applying for the police commissioner post, encouraged by several people who have messaged him to go for it. Judging by his performance during the 20-minute interview, he has shown he might well have what it takes to take on one of the most sensitive jobs in the country.
1. He went to the interview in the first place
Police in Malta are ridiculously tight-lipped with the media, never holding press conferences for even the most serious of cases and not allowing themselves to be open to public scrutiny. When police officers feel the public needs to know certain nuggets of information, they often resort to speaking to the press under condition of anonymity.
Yet Camilleri has always been an open book and described his stance perfectly last Friday.
“Police are a mirror to society. Some [police officers] have said we aren’t accountable to the public but I say we are.”
2. He agrees with an independent inquiry into the police force
The recent racket that has rocked the police force has also placed the police in the uncomfortable position of having to investigate their own colleagues. While some investigators are certainly dedicated to the cause, the public deserves to be assured that no crimes are covered up, particularly in light of reports that the racket extends beyond the Traffic Section.
An independent inquiry which will publish its findings is crucial in this regard, a request made by good governance NGO Repubblika. On Xarabank, Camilleri referred to Repubblika’s request without even being prompted to do so and said he agrees with it.
3. He said what really, really needed to be said with regards the whistleblower
This racket was brought to light in the first place by a whistleblower, but instead of being hailed as a national hero, this whistleblower has been forced into hiding out of fear of retribution. His/her fears aren’t misplaced either – Times of Malta recently reported that a former traffic officer has filed a report after being bombarded with threats and abusive messages by police colleagues accusing him of being the whistleblower.
Camilleri struck a sombre tone when analysing the situation on Xarabank.
“If there’s a whistleblower within the police force, then I tell him prosit for speaking out. But it’s also quite alarming if we’ve reached a stage where we need a whistleblower to come forward to start investigating. If you see illegalities, especially if you’re in the police force, then you should report them.”
He said the whistleblower deserves full protection and urged the public to stand up for people who expose wrongdoing.
4. He wants the top dogs within the police to be investigated too
Camilleri said the racket investigation should not stop at the traffic officers at the bottom of the rung but should open up to include their superiors who were in charge of them in the first place.
“This investigation now must open up. If we’re taking people to the guillotine, let’s make sure everyone who deserves to be put there, is,” he said.
Powerful people have a habit of getting away with it in Malta so to hear such comments from a potential police commissioner is certainly refreshing.
5. He’s not afraid of a clean sweep if that’s what it takes
Camilleri dismissed concerns that cleaning out the rot will leave the police severely understaffed, saying that the police should hire foreign officers if that’s what it takes.
“We’re in the EU and if there aren’t enough police officers, we can bring over officers from Europe. Why not?” he questioned.
He also said the eligibility criteria for the police academy should be widened to open it up to smart youths who don’t have the necessary O-Levels.
6. He praised the protest demanding justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia
After Camilleri announced he’s considering applying for police commissioner, a number of people warned he is a Labour stooge who will just follow the Prime Minister’s commands. This theory appears to be largely based on a photo of Camilleri at a PL mass meeting that was published by late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
However, last Friday, again unprompted, he praised people who took to the streets to demand justice for the assassinated journalist, with the caveat that protestors shouldn’t assault police officers.
“Many people asked me whether I disagree with the protests. God forbid those people and NGOs like Occupy Justice didn’t protest. They put their faces out there and came out against the system,” he said.
If Camilleri really wanted to suck up to the Prime Minister or the Labour Party, would he praise Occupy Justice on Malta’s most popular TV show? Of course not.
7. He has a lot of experience
Camilleri may have only reached the rank of Inspector but he has garnered significant experience in his 25 years in the police force. He founded the Police Officers Union and headed it for several years, putting him in touch with probably all the branches of the police force and making him aware of several injustices in the legal system.
Last Friday, he recounted his legal work for Emanuel Camilleri, a man who spent over a year in prison after his daughter falsely accused him of molesting her.
“I got Emanuel Camilleri released from prison and had to go up against the police, the Attorney General and the courts. Some people still don’t speak to me till this day because of it. But what could I do? Leave an innocent person in jail? Never.”
“He’s still receiving psychiatric treatment till this day but, after all this shameful treatment he received, all we did was apologise to him and say we made a mistake. No one has responded for [the way Camilleri was treated] and some people actually climbed the ranks.”
Camilleri also has a Masters in Management which could certainly come in handy when overseeing a workforce of 2000 people.
Do you think Sandro Camilleri should become police commissioner?