The earliest records of policing in Malta date back to the Arab rule (AD 870-1091) when the sahib el-xurta was responsible for maintaining public order. During the Aragonese period, in 1283, this work was strengthened with the establishment of the office of the Head of Justice or the Capitano di Verga, who became responsible for criminal and civil offences.
In 1530, Malta was enfeoffed to the Order of St John and policing fell under the control of the Gran Visconte.
The criminal law was written down in the Code de Rohan, promulgated in 1784, and amended by subsequent notices known as bandi.
When the French seized the island in 1798, the military and a civil commission of government became responsible for the maintenance of law and order.
On September 5, 1800, the besieged French forces surrendered to Major-General Henry Pigot, the commander of the British troops, and on May 14, 1801, Charles Cameron was appointed the first civil commissioner for Malta. Between 1801 and 1814, the first period of British rule, the administration of justice and police continued to be exercised, as circumstances permitted, in conformity with the laws and institutions of the Order of St John. However, the various executive forces, namely the Castellano, the Capitano di Verga, the Criminal Judge, the Magistrate of Police, the Advocate Fiscal, and the Governor of Gozo, as well as the police established in August 1812, acted on no uniform or settled plan.
When Malta became a colony of the United Kingdom and Ireland by the Treaty of Paris, Thomas Maitland was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Malta and its Dependencies by the Prince Regent’s Commission of July 13, 1813. On his appointment, Maitland, whose autocratic rule earned him the name of King Tom, embarked on many far-reaching reforms, including the maintenance of law and order.
By Proclamation XXII of 1st July 1814, Maitland ordered and directed that all powers up to then exercised with respect to the administration of the police of the island of Malta and its dependencies were, after 12th July 1814 to be administered by the authorities under established procedures.
The Police was to be divided into two districts or departments: the Executive Police and the Judicial. The Inspector General of the Police, today known as Commissioner, was to be placed at the head of the Executive Police. The Magistrates for the Island of Malta and Gozo were to be placed at the head of the Judicial Police. From 12th July 1814 onwards the entire management and control of the Executive Police came under the immediate supervision of the Inspector-General of Police who received his orders from the Governor.
He was given power and authority to suppress all common affrays, riots and breaches of the peace and to apprehend and imprison, or cause to be apprehended and imprisoned, all persons guilty thereof or guilty, or suspected to be guilty, of any crime or offence whatsoever against the public welfare. All idle and disorderly persons, drunkards, rouges and vagabonds and all suspicious persons found wandering about during unreasonable hours of the night were likewise to be apprehended.
The head of the Police also had authority to superintend and regulate all inn-keepers of coffee houses, liquor shops and other shops, as well as all persons who kept horses, calesses, carts or other carriages or boats for hire, or who exercised the business of a porter or carrier. Another duty was the superintendence of all foreigners coming into Malta.
To carry out their duties, the Police were given powers to arrest all persons guilty of any offence whatsoever against the public peace or welfare of the regulations of the Police. The person so arrested had, in every case where it was practicable, to be carried forthwith before the Magistrate of Judicial Police for examination. In no case were they to be detained for longer than two days without being brought before the said Magistrate.
By 1842, when Malta’s population was just over 97,500, the Police Force consisted of 209 officers, manning 45 police stations. A constables rate of pay was two shillings (10 cents) a day, whilst the yearly salary of the Head of Police was 450 pounds. The Police Force was established for the maintenance of law and order; however, from its establishment the Police were engaged in a number of subsidiary duties. One of the duties devolved upon the Police in 1818 was the management of cleansing of the streets of the four cities. Other similar duties followed when the Police were authorised to grant rewards to those who killed and delivered mad dogs to the Office of the Inspector General of Police.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, awards were also offered to those who delivered dead rats to the police Stations. This was encouraged as rats were considered to be carriers of the bubonic plague. Another extraneous duty devolved upon the Police when postage stamps were sold from Police Stations. In 1891, twenty-six village Stations in Malta and Gozo were authorised to sell these stamps and these Stations became Postal Agencies. The Police also had to register the incoming and outgoing mail and, in most villages where deliveries of letters at residence were not effected, the letters were displayed in glazed wooden frames at Police Stations. Whoever was expecting a letter would call and check whether there was anything addressed to them.
After the grant of self-government in 1921, the police department became the responsibility of the Maltese government. The first minister appointed, who was responsible for justice and the police, was Dr Alfredo Caruana Gatto
In 1921, following re-organisation of the Postal Office, the police were relieved of all duties connected with postal services. Now-a-days, letter boxes, can still be found at some old Police Stations.
Again in 1897, by the introduction of the telephone service in Malta, telephones were installed in the main Police Stations of every town and village and the service was made accessible to the public on payment of a fee. They would call at the Station of his town or village and a message was sent to the other Station of the town or village of the person to be contacted. The latter had to be called by the Police provided that they resided in a mainly inhabited area.
The Police had to levy a fee, issued a receipt and make an entry in a register of the date, time and other details of the message. This duty was carried out by the Police up to 1915 when the Melita Telephone Exchange was established. During the Second World War, the Police had a tough time handling queues for water, kerosene and other commodities. They enforced curfews, tried to prevent theft of provisions and removed the dead from bombed buildings. During that period, all Police personnel were issued with side arms. After the war, the Force resumed its normal peacetime police duties. In 1948, a policeman could retire after 25 years service. This was done to compensate officers for the work they did and the long hours spent on duty.
Police worked 12 hours a day and stayed in Police Stations as reserve officers. The oldest branch in the Police Force, is the Mounted Section, which was established in 1859. The Criminal Investigations Department, better known as CID was founded in 1917, whilst the Traffic Department in 1925. The first woman constable joined the force on the 5th June 1956. The Malta Police of the 1990s are organised on a variety of fronts to fight crime, uphold law and order and to be of service to the public. Malta and Gozo are divided into ten districts and twenty-one divisions. The CID, has three branches: Fraud Squad, Vice Squad and Criminal Investigations.
The Security Branch monitors immigration and emigration and the protection of VIPs such as Presidents, Ministers and visiting dignitaries. There are also a host of support services.
The Malta Police Force is one of the oldest police forces in Europe.
Role and responsibilities of the police
The Malta Police have a mixed responsibility in respect of its investigative role and national security.
In the investigative role the Malta police is legally bound to act upon the receipt of any information, report or complaint, and decide the respective natures of such information in order to treat accordingly.
Reports could be subject of a criminal investigation or of a civil nature. One may also report for record purposes.
The Police only investigate criminally related offences and usually do not interfere with civil cases.
The Police investigate, collect evidence and bring offenders before a judicial authority (the court).
In reality, the police are always in search of the truth within the parameters of its investigative powers combined with those afforded by the judicial authority.
It is the Commissioner of Police who decides on what charges the offender is to be brought to court.
In case the victim does not agree with the charges presented in court against the offender, he may challenge the Commissioner through a request made to a Magistrate.
Structure of the Malta Police Force
The current Police Commissioner is Mr Peter Paul Zammit, aided by his deputy Mr Joseph Cachia. There are about 1,800 serving members, of whom there are around 850 district police officers in regions and these are generally related directly to community policing. The remaining members are posted in several sections of the force.
The ranks in the Force are as follows:
2nd Class Sergeant Major
1st Class Sergeant Major
Malta is divided in two regions- Region A (South) and Region B (North). Each Region is headed by an Assistant Commissioner. Region A covers districts 1 to 5 while Region B covers districts 6 to 10.
Each district is headed by a Superintendent and there are several divisions in each district headed by an Inspector.
Generally community policing is the duty of the district police, although all other branches of the force assist in this mission.
There are also the specialised branches which form part of the Malta police force which are as follows:
1. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
2. The Drugs Squad
3. The Vice Squad and Economic Crimes Unit
4. The Protective Services
5. The Special Branch
All the above have some kind of relation with community policing since all of them assist in some kind or another, the district police.
The members of the Force are entitled to a pension after 25 years of service. A number of police officers are also members of the International Police Association (IPA) and the Force itself has been a member of the Interpol since 1972.
Police powers & duties
It is the duty of the executive police to preserve public order and peace, to prevent and to detect and investigate offences, to collect evidence and to bring the offenders, whether principals or accomplices, before the judicial authorities.
July 12th 2014 marked the 200th anniversary since the police force was set up in Malta.
The police force, in its present form, was founded in 1814 when, after the Treaty of Paris, the island of Malta became a British possession.
Sir Thomas Maitland was Governor of Malta between 1843 and 1814 and, on his appointment, embarked on an era of reform with the state of the policing in Malta one of several fields restructured.
At a media gathering, Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit explained that the theme of the logo ‘Min-nies ghan-nies’ represents the thinking behind the entity’s aims, which, along with its structure, have largely remained constant throughout the Force’s two hundred year history. He explained that Malta’s Police Force is not a Military Force but a Civilian one.
PC Ryan Buttigieg, who designed the logo, explained that the eight-pointed cross depicted in the logo was blurred out to signify the fact that the police were “never static, but always on the go”.
A video entitled ‘Fast forwarding 200 years of service’ was also compiled to commemorate the occasion.
The Central Bank of Malta issued a €2 commemorative coin on Wednesday 9 July 2014 marking the 200th anniversary of the setting up of the Malta Police Force. On its reverse side the commemorative coin features the common €2 symbol while on the obverse side it depicts the emblem of the Malta Police Force. The obverse side of the coin was designed and engraved by Noel Galea Bason and was minted at the Royal Dutch Mint.
The year 2014 also marked the 60th anniversary since the police headquarters moved to their present location in Floriana in March 1954, whilst August 2014 marks the 100 year anniversary since the death of local P.C Santu Cassar, who died whilst on the job.
The Police Force had its first General Headquarters between 1918 and 1940 at the Sacra Infermeria in Valletta. Then during the Second World War the Police Headquarters was transferred to Vincenzo Bugeja Institute in Santa Venera until 1954 when the Police Force Headquarters was transferred to the former Central Hospital premises in Floriana from where they still operate.
The Police Depot, as it is known today, was built by the Portuguese Grand Master Manoel De Vilhena in 1734 and at first it served as an institute called ‘Casa D’Industria’, a home for homeless women. They were taught basic skills and education such as reading, writing and some trades like weaving, carding and processing cotton.
In 1850, during the British occupation period, this building was used as the General Hospital. Beneath this building, a shelter was dug at the beginning of the Second World War in order to tend to wounded patients who could not be easily moved from one place to another. This space therefore provided a safer environment for patients during air bombardments. Imagine what would have happened if during an operation, doctors would have to stop from their medical intervention on patients. That is why there are two operating theatres in this shelter. It is interesting to note that this is not only the only shelter in the Maltese Islands used for this function, because as far as we know, there is no underground hospital on the continent that was built or dug out to operate in this way.
It was in 1954 that the Police Force moved into this building and turned it into its General Headquarters, from where it still operates today.
COMMISSIONERS OF POLICE
Col. Francesco Rivarola
1813 – 1822
Lt. Col. Henry Balneavis
1822 – 1832
Mr. Charles Godfrey
1832 – 1844
Mr Frederick Sedley
1845 – 1858
Mr Hector Zimelli
1858 – 1869
Mr Raffaele Bonello
1869 – 1880
Col. Attillo Sceberras
1880 – 1884
Capt. Richard Casolani, RMFA
1884 – 1888
Mr Melitone Caruana
1888 – 1890
Comm. Hon. Clement La Primaudaye, MVO., RN
1890 – 1903
Mr Tancred Curmi
1903 – 1915
Mr Claude W. Duncan
1916 – 1919
Col. Henry W. Bamford, OBE
1919 – 1922
Mr Antonio Busuttil
1922 – 1923
Mjr. Frank Stivala
1923 – 1928
Mr Salvatore Galea
1928 – 1939
Lt. Col. Gustavus S. Brander, OBE
1930 – 1932
Mr Joseph Axisa
1939 – 1947
Mr Joseph Ullo
1947 – 1951
Mr Herbert Grech
1951 – 1954
Mr George Cachia, L.P.
1954 – 1956
Mr Vivian Byres de Gray, MVO., MBE., BEM
1956 – 1971
Comm. Alfred J. Bencini
1971 – 1973
Mr Edward Bencini
1973 – 1974
Mr Enoch Tonna
1974 – 1977
Mr John N. Cachia
1977 – 1980
Dr. Lawrence Pullicino, LL.D.
1980 – 1987
Bgdr. John Spiteri, AFM
(1987 – 1988)
Mr Alfred A. Calleja
1988 – 1992
Mr George Grech
(1992 – 2001)
Mr John Rizzo
(2001 – 2013)
Mr. Peter Paul Zammit, L.P.
(2013 – 2014 )
Mr. Ray Zammit
Mr. Michael Cassar
(2014 – )
They fell in line of duty
INSPECTOR – VINCENT CARUANA – 06.05.1856
PC – SERAFINO ZAMMIT – 11.04.1860
PC – FELIC DALLI – 27.04.1860
PC – CUSCHIERI – 06.02.1867
PS 273 – ANTONIO VELLA – 28.12.1889
PC 201 – SANTU CASSAR – 01.08.1914
PC 412 – SAVIOUR BUGEJA – 26.02.1928
PC 019 – EMANUELE CAMILLERI – 07.11.1932
INSPECTOR – EDWARD TONNA – 10.01.1947
PC 959 – CARMEL XUEREB – 10.01.1947
PC 263 – AZZOPARDI – 30.10.1948
PC 877 – SPITERI – 20.10.1948
PC 185 – PAWLU VALLETTA – 12.04.1952
PC 515 – PAUL ZAMMIT – 10.12.1983
PS 019 – SALVU MUSCAT – 07.09.1984
PC – JOSEPH HARE – 07.09.1984
PC 525 – MARK FARRUGIA (aged 23 years) – 21.03.1999
PC 949 – ROGER DEBATTISTA (aged 34 years) – 12.11.2001
PC 381 – DENNIS SAMMUT (aged 53 years) – 06.05.2009
RANKS, CAREER AND SERVICE
|Commissioner of Police||Scale 2|
|Deputy Commissioner||Scale 3|
|Assistant Commissioner||Scale 4|
|Police Senior Superintendent||Scale 5|
|Police Superintendent (confirmed)||Scale 5|
|Police Superintendent||Scale 5|
|Police Senior Inspector||Scale 7|
|Police Inspector (confirmed)||Scale 7|
|Police Inspector||Scale 8|
|Sergeant Major (1st Class)||Scale 9|
|Sergeant Major (2nd Class)||Scale 10|
|Police Sergeant (after 8 years)||Scale 11|
|Police Sergeant (after 3 years)||Scale 11|
|Police Sergeant||Scale 11|
|Police Constable (after 10 years)||Scale 12|
|Police Constable (after 2 years)||Scale 13|
|Police Constable||Scale 14|