The Malta Police Union on Thursday filed a judicial protest complaining that the conditions in an internal call for assistant commissioners were "restrictive and discriminatory", putting its members at a disadvantage.

The call was issued on November 5 and, some days later, the union filed a trade dispute with the police commissioner.

The call for assistant commissioners had been issued following three scathing reports by the Ombudsman which found that a similar exercise in 2016 was irregular and “a parody”.

The ombudsman had ruled earlier in 2021 in three separate investigations that the selection process for the promotion of superintendents to the post of assistant commissioner was “vitiated and defective”.

Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud was ruling on complaints filed by former superintendents Simon Galea and Carmelo Bartolo and Superintendent Ray D’Anastas where he found that former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar had led “a parody of a selection process”, choosing people based on personal trust rather than experience and seniority.

The selection board had been chaired by Cutajar, with former assistant police commissioner Josie Brincat and Joseph Mangani as members. Fourteen applicants had gone through to the next stage of selection and seven had failed.

Reacting to these reports, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà and the Home Affairs Ministry had rejected the conclusions but said they were considering a fresh call for applications.

In its judicial protest on Thursday, the union said the call, which closes on Friday, states that “due consideration will be given to applicants who, besides the requisites… have (sic) knowledge and proven relevant work experience in financial crime investigations”.

The call also states that the applicants must submit a “three-year plan outlining their vision for a specific operations area of their choice… incorporating elements of financial crime investigations whilst aligning their actions with the Malta Police Transformation Strategy”.

The union said this condition was discriminatory as not all superintendents who qualified for promotion to the post of assistant commissioner had such experience in financial crime investigations if they had been assigned to other duties within the force.

It said that this condition restricted the post to a small number of people who, unlike others, had the opportunity to participate in such investigations.

The union referred to the ombudsman’s investigations and his stress on the need for a level playing field – a mistake, it claimed, repeated in this call.

It said that although it understood that such crimes were on the increase, this did not give the Police Commissioner the “carte blanche” to shift the parameters in such a way that excluded eligible candidates.

The union said it had tried to obtain a revision of this criterion but the commissioner ignored these requests, leading the union to file an industrial dispute with the force.

The union called on the Police Commissioner to change the restrictive criteria and held him responsible for damages in default.

Lawyer Andrew Grima signed the protest. 

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