Recommendation not implemented: Ombudsman finds injustice in denial of Long and Efficient Service Medal for Police Officer

In accordance with Article 22(4) of the Ombudsman Act, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, has submitted the Final Opinion to the House of Representatives concerning a Malta Police Corps officer who was not awarded the Long and Efficient Service Medal after a long and diligent service.

The complaint

The complainant, having served almost thirty-three years with the Malta Police Corps, both in a regular and reserve capacity, complained about not being awarded the Long and Efficient Service Medal. He argued that his diligent and dedicated service, including volunteering as a Reserve Police Constable after reaching retirement, warranted the medal and its clasps.

The investigation

The investigation revealed that the medal is awarded for an aggregate of 18 years of efficient service with irreproachable character and conduct, with clasps awarded for additional service. The Ministry for Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police denied the medal, citing six disciplinary offences committed by the complainant, with the last offence occurring in 1998. They argued that according to their criteria, ten years must pass without further offences to qualify for the medal, and since the complainant retired in 2001, only three years had passed. The Ministry also stated that time served as a Reserve Police Constable does not count towards the medal.

The Ombudsman noted the Ministry’s acknowledgement of the significant role and duties performed by Reserve Police Constables, comparable to regular officers. Public statements from both the Ministry and the Commissioner of Police recognised the value and contributions of Reserve Police Constables.

Conclusions and recommendations

The Ombudsman concluded that the complainant’s total service, combining regular and reserve periods, amounted to over thirty-two years. Given that more than ten years had passed since his last disciplinary offence by the end of his service in 2022, he met the criteria for the medal. The reluctance to recognise his reserve service was seen as unjust, especially in light of public admissions regarding the importance and equivalence of Reserve Police Constables’ duties.

The Ombudsman recommended that the complainant’s total service be acknowledged and the Commissioner of Police reassess his eligibility for the Long and Efficient Service Medal and its clasps. The refusal to award the decorations was deemed an injustice, and the complainant’s service should be rightfully recognised.

Outcome

The Ministry expressed disagreement with the conclusion that the complainant suffered an injustice. They emphasised that the engagement of Reserve Police Officers (RPCs) differs significantly from that of fully-fledged police officers. RPCs receive a service pension during their tenure, which does not apply to regular officers, and their service is not pensionable. Additionally, RPCs are not considered police officers at all times, and their powers cease at the end of their assigned duties. The Ministry highlighted that RPCs work varying hours based on the needs of the disciplinary force and that their service should not be equated with that of regular officers.

The Ministry also noted that the interpretation and implementation of the Rules for Honours, Awards, and Decorations fall outside the remit of the Malta Police Force and are determined by the President of Malta on the advice of the Prime Minister. Consequently, they regretted that the recommendations could not be implemented.

Therefore, since the recommendations were not implemented, the Ombudsman sought the Prime Minister’s direct intervention according to the law. However, since the request to the Prime Minister was of no avail, the Ombudsman sent the report to the Speaker of the House, who in turn tabled it before the House of Representatives.

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