Thursday, August 25, 2016

Police Failure And Failing The Police

When is a policeman not a policeman? The answer is when a judge has slapped a restraining order on him entering police facilities. This is the situation as it applies to three (former) senior police officers - Palma's Joan Mut and Antonio Morey and Calvia's José Antonio Navarro. The judge investigating police corruption allegations - Manuel Penalva - has issued orders against the three. In the case of Mut, the restraining order also prevents him going within 300 metres of the "honest" cop who blew the whistle on him. Neither Mut nor Morey, furthermore, can go near the offices of Palma's councillor for public safety.

The cases of these three officers are not necessarily linked. There have been suggestions that alleged police corruption centred on Palma's and Calvia's nightlife districts do have some links, but no evidence has been revealed to indicate collusion. Only suggestions. This is, nonetheless, all part of the investigation that has been taking months and which shows little sign of being resolved in the short term, thus continuing to damage both forces.

The circumstances differ. Where Navarro is concerned, he was arrested and held in custody for some forty days and charged with corruption. The allegations centre on favours shown to certain businesses in Magalluf and harassment of rival businesses. He was released in October 2014 and has been replaced as head of Calvia's police force.

Mut faces charges of malfeasance and coercion. He was taped by another officer, the "honest" one, Antonio Ramis. That recording included an admission of altering evidence but also one of having done so under pressure from political superiors. He was eventually dismissed by the current town hall administration for "disobedience". He was succeeded by Morey who, a few months into his post, launched an astonishing attack on the judge, the anti-corruption prosecutor and the councillor for public safety, Angelica Pastor. While he appeared to offer a defence of certain officers who had been charged, he also brought into question the investigation, implying political motivations, and indeed the competence of officials, such as Pastor. His position was obviously untenable.

The cases go beyond allegations against police officers. Politicians are involved as well. Pastor's predecessor, Guillem Navarro, has been implicated, as have the former deputy mayor, Alvaro Gijón, and the president of the Partido Popular in Palma, José María Rodríguez. The latter is scheduled to appear before Judge Penalva tomorrow. Of evidence against him that has been leaking out are statements from members of the elite GAP (preventive action) unit in Palma which allege that he was instrumental in drafting in officers from Manacor who were to form a unit dedicated to the PP.

The charges against police officers in Palma - currently in custody or at liberty - include some extremely serious ones. Against the backdrop of arrests and the Penalva/anti-corruption prosecutor investigation, the town hall is remodelling the police force, just as it is being overhauled in Calvia. The belief is that restructuring and strengthened lines of reporting will prevent the types of allegations that have occurred from being repeated. They may well do, but in terms of practical application on the ground, how well are the police forces performing? There are complaints in Magalluf and Playa de Palma about a continuation of ineffective policing. Is restructuring merely political window-dressing that doesn't help the police because of lack of resources?

The political dimension cannot be ignored, whether it is the competence of political officials or their own corrupt practices (allegedly). In the case of Joan Mut, he himself took over from Antonio Vera, who was forced to resign because of involvement in the rigging of police promotion exams. (This was what in fact started the whole police corruption ball rolling.) While Mut does face charges, what does one make of his suggestion of there having been pressure from political superiors? Should there be some sympathy, if this were proved to be the case? No, you might say, he should have resigned. But a resignation has to be approved by political superiors.

There have unquestionably been major police failures in both Palma and Calvia. That these may have involved only a relatively limited number of officers does not eradicate feelings of a lack of confidence. The time that the investigations are dragging on do not help either. Where Calvia is concerned, we only now hear of Navarro's suspension. Are the police being failed, therefore, by a slow-moving judicial process and by politicians both past and present? Calvia (and Palma) have made repeated statements about improvements to forces, and yet the complaints persist, though in Calvia's defence, it should be noted that criticisms from the PP opposition have the distinct flavour of pot calling the kettle black. Above all, though, there is the suggestion of political involvement in police corruption. If so, were the police failed by politicians? Who were the instigators? Judge Penalva, albeit slowly, is finding out.

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