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Opinion & Analysis

Police are ‘woefully undermanned’ in demanding, fast-changing environment

By Henry Bautista, Chairman of the Gibraltar Police Federation

In light of recent comments in the press and social media we feel it is necessary to clarify a few points. The Commissioner of Police has felt that it is unacceptable to enter into justification with the media at this point in time as there is ongoing dialogue with HM Government of Gibraltar on manning and resourcing issues.

So, as the Gibraltar Police Federation and on behalf of our members, we will address several points which have been mentioned.

Firstly, we would like to state that the public are not always privy to the day to day workings of the Royal Gibraltar Police. Many will only really come into contact with a Police Officer if they have committed themselves, suffered a traumatic event, had a traffic collision or been a direct victim of a crime. Therefore, when comments are made they can easily be misunderstood.
To deal with the matter of manning levels.

The RGP manning levels have only been increased by 10 officers since the 1940’s. Since then Gibraltar has evolved to become a bustling city, with a Frontier, International Airport and Cruise Liner Terminal and ever continuing and growing community needs with over 9 million tourists entering Gibraltar. As you can imagine many things have changed except the “extra” 10 complement. We are, without doubt, woefully undermanned. The Federation is currently in consultation with HM Government of Gibraltar in this respect, who have fully been briefed and we are currently waiting for their reply.

In October 2011 the Criminal Procedures Evidence Act (CPE Act) was introduced. With this, there came a necessity to both expand existing departments within the RGP and also to open new departments to deal with specific legislation and the application of such. Departments such as Public Protection Unit and Safeguarding which are tasked to deal with the most vulnerable within our community.

Expansion of our financial crime and intelligence units, which fight the growing threat of money laundering, financing of terrorism, cyber fraud, increasing confidence from other countries that invest in our international business, and helping to keep our economy buoyant for our community.

This was accepted by our then Commissioner without proper regard for the substantial increase in both personnel and resources to run such departments without proper assessment. Poor management? We should say so!

This legacy was left to the RGP to manage to the very best we can without the necessary manpower resources.

Further to this, one must accept that the face of crime is changing too and as an emergency service we must change organically and are reacting to events as they emerge both locally and as part of a global threat. The world is now a very small place with regard to crime.

No one joins an emergency service for the thanks. It is a certain character of person that wants to help people are serve our community. When officers are rarely getting their refreshment breaks and when a threat has been received and is perceived to be present, they are having their rest days altered at short notice and their shifts changed, it becomes very hard to listen to criticism.

It is a testament to the men and women of the RGP that things are dealt with as well as they are, and also to their long suffering families who also have their lives disrupted regularly with change of rest days and at times no overtime with little notice of a change of shift. Police officers are not robots and they also need a good working life balance. Properly rested and refreshed in order to perform and face ever increasing challenges.

For decades and under several Commissioners the RGP was operating an antiquated shift system that did not meet the European Working Time Directive on several points. It was unhealthy for officers and offered virtually no work/life balance.

Finally, last year a new shift system was implemented which has gone some way to bettering the situation. This means that there are in fact less officers to each shift. However with ever increasing demands and no increase in manpower, this is impossible to rectify.

The organisation has lobbied for years for other agencies to take the lead in matters that are theirs to take the lead on, such as HM Customs and Department of Environment who have recently been properly resourced to do so. This does not mean that they are not heavily supported by the RGP especially once arrests have been made.

This brings to mention the new Database systems and IT rafts being introduced, which are a necessity to progress, be efficient and modern in this day and age, both through the enforcement agencies and Court/Justice system. The RGP has taken the lead entirely in this matter and continue to do so with training etc.

When any relevant matter is reported to the RGP it is acted upon. There is a finite number of Police officers to deal with any day to day matters, but rest assured that our priority is to deal with matters. Yes, we have to prioritise at times and rightly so. There are indeed times when a Police officer will not be able to attend immediately to you, and you may sometimes even be requested to attend to the Police Station instead.

We strongly refute that a potentially life threatening matter, reported accurately as such, would not be prioritised immediately and an officer/s despatched as soon as humanly possible.
Are we as a perfect organisation? Absolutely not! There is room for improvement with the right resources and necessary manning!

Officers can take constructive criticism, but they are human beings and sometimes make mistakes. However, as stated before our officers are working at times under pressure and in difficult circumstances, doing the very best they can, so to read comments that are demoralising, it is hard for them and their families.

We nevertheless welcome if any retired officers or managers have the answers for us to then please come forward to the Commissioner, his Senior Management Team or the Federation, but we are guessing if they had the answers they would have been implemented whilst in office.

We are proud to work for the Gibraltar Government and the community and we are extremely grateful for your support.

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