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MALTATODAY 16 October 2022

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11 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 16 OCTOBER 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO RECRUITS joining the Malta Police force get briefed on a code of ethics, which includes a com- mitment against racial discrim- ination, and attend sessions on topics like human rights and hate crimes. But prospective officers do not undergo any mandatory anti-racist training to challenge prevailing cultural stereotypes as is now becoming the norm in other European countries. And apart from a code of eth- ics, no specific policy exists on how to tackle and root out rac- ism in the Maltese police force. Last week, three police officers were arraigned in connection with two separate incidents, in which migrants were allegedly first abducted and beaten, and then abandoned in an uninhab- ited area. The charges of bodily harm and abduction are further aggravated by the abductors' ra- cial motives. MaltaToday specifically asked whether the police force has any specific policy on how to tackle racism within the police force and whether there any plans to formulate such a policy. It al- so asked whether there is any mandatory training for police on topics like racial discrimination, racial profiling, racism, cultural stereotypes and anti-racism. A spokesperson for the police force replied that training cov- ered during recruitment stage, career progression courses and in-service training includes "ses- sions covering the Malta Police Code of Ethics" and address topics like "human rights, hate crime, policies, standard operat- ing procedures, customer care, community policing and com- munication skills". Practical ses- sions are also held with regard to control and restraint of individ- uals. The police code of ethics in- cludes two references to race is- sues, one of which stating that in the execution of their duty, "po- lice officers shall not allow dis- crimination, based on sex, race, language, religion, education and belief, political attitudes, opin- ion, national or social origin, eth- nic origin, disabilities, age, sexual orientation, personal and public position or possession of prop- erty" and another stating that police "shall refrain from preju- diced assessment of the witness, arising from sex, race, language, religion, education and belief, political attitudes, opinion, na- tional or social origin, ethnic origin, disabilities, age, sexual orientation, personal and public position, possession of property, judicial records or associations". MaltaToday also asked the police force whether the police force has any policy barring any- one expressing racist views from joining the force. A police spokesperson replied that whenever a person applies for a post with the Malta Police Force, apart from being request- ed to provide a criminal conduct certificate, "in-depth security checks through the Malta Police Central Intelligence & Analysis (CI&A) Unit are conducted on the individual applying, while checks on the individual are also performed on the Malta Police official reporting system. Asked whether the force has any ongoing dialogue with eth- nic communities living in Malta in view of Malta's increasingly diverse population, the spokes- person replied that "community Police Officers are engaged in ongoing dialogue with different ethnic communities to strength- en the Malta Police Force's rela- tionship and assistance, in case needed". But Omar Rabbabah, a Human Rights Directorate social worker and anti-racist activist, empha- sised the importance of special- ised training to combat racism, which he says goes beyond to- ken and vague references in ge- neric codes. "It is pertinent to point out that police officers are also schooled in an education system in which, despite some progress in recent times, racism and anti-racism are not given sufficient impor- tance." Rabbabah says the aim of an anti-racist education in the po- lice force should be that "of chal- lenging core beliefs" which are rooted in recruits before joining the force. "We should never for- get that police are members of a society where attitudes towards ethnicity are conditioned by widespread misinformation and sheer hatred of foreigners." And while recognising the im- portance of the police code of ethics, Rabbabah sees the need for a more pro-active anti rac- ist education in the police force which actively questions stereo- types. Anti-racist policing in other countries Over the past decade police forces in other European coun- tries have embraced a greater commitment to combat racism, which goes beyond token refer- ences to race but also involves challenging stereotypes and fa- miliarisation with topics like black history. For example, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, the UK formulated a Police Race Action Plan to address the sig- nificantly lower levels of trust and confidence among the black community. One of the measures enacted in the plan is the introduction of mandatory training for all police officers and staff about racism, anti-racism, black history and its connection to policing. Learning outcomes for training sessions include "a recognition on how a person's personal values, be- liefs and preference affect their attitudes and responses to situ- ations"; and prospective officers are invited to explore their "own personal prejudices and discrim- inations". In Germany, Berlin and other states are including anti-racism modules in basic training, while Schleswig-Holstein has also adopted "multicultural compe- tence" in basic police training. France also vowed "zero tol- erance" over police racism after George Floyd's death in the Unit- ed States helped shine a light on the issue in Europe and has in- troduced a mandatory course on how to combat racism. Time to send police to anti-racism school? Should police undergo anti-racist training? Anti-racism activist Omar Rabbabah insists police should undergo specialised training which challenges prevailing stereotypes based on misinformation and hatred of foreigners Charged with racism and abduction: police officers Jurgen Falzon, Rika Mifsud- Grech, Luca Brincat

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