The Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police claims the recent departure of a number of officers is affecting the force’s capabilities and its morale.
In a message to all staff, seen by GBC, Richard Ullger said some of the officers involved have resigned while they were subject to a disciplinary or criminal process, and were given “almost immediate alternative employment” in Government services.
In an internal communication to all personnel, Richard Ullger said he had been challenged by several members of staff on issues around police retention.
He said: “It is certainly very apparent that the recent exit of a number of police officers from the Royal Gibraltar Police who have been provided an almost immediate alternative employment into the Government Service is having an impact on police officer moral[e], and most definitely an impact on our capacity and capability in a number of policing responsibilities”.
Mr Ullger said there is no place in the Royal Gibraltar Police for those who breach its code – or even the Crimes Act – and then leave the organisation so they can evade investigation.
He said: “I share your concerns of some of the individuals who have resigned whilst they have been subjected to a discipline/criminal process and yet have been provided this alternative employment, with what appears to be keeping their salaries”.
The Police Commissioner said he and the Command Team had raised the issue with the Governor, adding he had also raised it with the Police Authority.
Richard Ullger said: “I have also been informed that some members have written to the Chairman/Secretary of the Federation about this very issue and have experienced the same front of silence, as I have when I asked them about their involvement in the process”.
The Commissioner points to gaps in the workforce - with newly-recruited officers still being trained and 20 new vacancies having already arisen. He said lower-risk departments may need to be restructured to support the higher-risk ones.
Richard Ullger said the RGP must be seen as protectors of Gibraltar – and that this can only be done by people who are proud of the uniform they wear and the organisation they serve.
NUMBER SIX RESPONDS
The Government has confirmed that a number of police officers have moved from the RGP to employment elsewhere in the public sector.
In answer to GBC questions, Number Six says it does not comment on matters relating to individual public servants.
However, it says the Employment (Public Interest Information) Act of 2012 provides a statutory protection for employees who make a disclosure in the public interest, including the right not to be subjected to a detriment, or dismissed.
The Government says the relevant disclosures relate to historic allegations arising from the officers’ service within the RGP.
GIBRALTAR POLICE FEDERATION RESPONDS
The Chairman of the Gibraltar Police Federation says he replied internally to the Royal Gibraltar Police regarding the allegations made.
On the claim of a "front of silence", Maurice Morello told GBC "this is simply not true".
He said he would reply in due course to GBC questions after consultation with the Gibraltar Police Federation Board.
GBC has also reached out to the Royal Gibraltar Police, the Police Authority, and the Convent, for comment.
The GSD says that the exit of former Police Officers while they were under investigation by the Police and the fact that “almost immediate alternative employment” was found for them in Government departments “raises serious questions.”
A statement continued: “In a statement to the RGP the Commissioner of Police, Mr Ullger, has stated that this was having an effect on morale. He stated that he shared the concerns of officers that “some of the individuals who have resigned whilst they have been subjected to a discipline/criminal process...have been provided this alternative employment with what appears to be keeping their salaries.”
“The Commissioner has been moved to raise his concerns with the Governor and refers to “persons who breach our Code or even the Crimes Act and are subsequently investigated for those offences but yet exit our organisation to evade our process...”
“These are extremely serious statements. The bland statement by Government in answer to GBC questions pointing to the Employment (Public Interest Information) Act 2012 can only be a partial answer to what is happening behind the scenes. That Act protects so-called “qualifying disclosures” being made by public servants – in other words evidence as to potential wrongdoing.
“The timing of all this is strange. It’s been an open secret that there was a growing group of former officers that have been shifted to other jobs within Government. It would be stranger still if some of these officers were to subsequently surface in the McGrail inquiry to give evidence in respect of matters that were not central to the original issues that led to the former Commissioner spectacularly falling out with the Chief Minister and being asked to retire in June 2020. Additionally, is this evidence being directly or indirectly encouraged in an attempt to hurl diversionary counter allegations at former Commissioner McGrail in an Inquiry that is politically damaging to the Chief Minister?
“If evidence of this type emerges in the Inquiry then the entire circumstances and facts need to be shared with the Inquiry Chairman so that the motivations and enticements as well as the evidence are put before the Inquiry.”
- Governor says each case must be assessed individually in line with law
A leaked internal police memo in which Commissioner Richard Ullger voiced concern about officers who had left the force, some while under investigation, and found “almost immediate alternative employment” in the public service triggered a fierce political clash on Tuesday.
The Gibraltar Government said it was acting in accordance with the law to protect whistle blowers after the officers made disclosures about historical matters relating to their service in the RGP.
But the GSD said the revelation raised “serious questions” and that the timing was “strange” against the backdrop of the McGrail Inquiry.
In the memo, which was first reported by GBC after the broadcaster obtained a copy, Mr Ullger acknowledged that he shared his officers’ concerns about retention.
In the internal communication, which went to all officers, Mr Ullger said he had raised the issue with both the Governor, who has constitutional responsibility for internal security including the police, and the Gibraltar Police Authority.
Of particular concern was that some officers had resigned while under disciplinary or criminal investigation but had been re-employed elsewhere in the public service.
“I share your concerns of some of the individuals who have resigned whilst they have been subjected to a discipline/criminal process and yet have been provided this alternative employment, with what appears to be keeping their salaries,” Mr Ullger said.
The Commissioner acknowledged too that the issue was impacting morale among officers and stretching the RGP’s capabilities.
“It is certainly very apparent that the recent exit of a number of police officers from the Royal Gibraltar Police who have been provided an almost immediate alternative employment into the Government Service is having an impact on police officer moral [sic], and most definitely an impact on our capacity and capability in a number of policing responsibilities,” the Commissioner said.
The Gibraltar Government said it would not comment on matters relating to individual public servants.
But it confirmed that “a number” of former police officers had moved from the RGP to employment elsewhere in the public sector under the provisions of the Employment (Public Interest Information) Act 2012, which seeks to protect whistle blowers.
“This Act provides a statutory protection for employees who make a disclosure in the public interest, including the right not to be subjected to a detriment, or dismissed,” a spokesperson for No.6 Convent Place said.
“The relevant disclosures relate to historical allegations arising from their service within the Royal Gibraltar Police.”
Speaking to the Chronicle, the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, said he was aware of the Commissioner’s memo and the concerns raised within it, but added it was important that each case be assessed individually in accordance with the law.
“In certain circumstances, and in accordance with an employer’s duty of care as well as in accordance with statutory law, members of an organisation who raise an issue relating to their employment may be transferred into alternative employment within that organisation,” Sir David said.
“Where that is a small organisation, other employment may be necessary.”
“Each case must be judged on its merits, including of course the wishes of the individual who raises the issue.”
“I note that, as a consequence of matters happening in the past which have involved certain police officers, and which are being investigated, that they have chosen to assume alternative roles offered to them in the wider public service. “
“This, however, has been a small number of officers and should not undermine the public confidence in a Force that has been recognised by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary as providing the public with policing that meets the high standards expected of every police force in the United Kingdom, as well as in Gibraltar.”
Sir David said he was “disappointed” that an internal communication from the Commissioner to his officers had been leaked, a view he said was shared by the Gibraltar Police Authority.
“Commissioner Ullger was clearly only seeking to reassure his officers that concerns they may have expressed have been heard, and that he is addressing those concerns as best he is able to do,” he said.
“In a small police force, any gaps in uniformed officers will have a disproportionately large impact on those who have to continue to deliver the full output of the Force as a whole.”
“The recent inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary recognised the significant professional improvements made in the Royal Gibraltar Police Force over the past few years, and I have confidence that Commissioner Ullger, supported by all his officers, the Police Federation, the Government and by me, will continue such a programme to ensure that the community receives the best possible police service.”
Last night, contacted by the Chronicle, Mr Ullger said his memo had been an internal communication to his officers and that it would be inappropriate for him to comment.
But the developments drew a stern political reaction from the GSD, which described the statements made by Mr Ullger as “extremely serious”.
The GSD said the government’s response to GBC’s story was “bland” and offered only “a partial answer” to what was happening “behind the scenes”.
It noted that the whistle blower Act protected “qualifying disclosures” being made by public servants, “in other words evidence as to potential wrongdoing”.
The GSD said the timing of the development was “strange” and questioned whether there was any link to the public inquiry into the early retirement of former Commissioner Ian McGrail.
“It’s been an open secret that there was a growing group of former officers that have been shifted to other jobs within Government,” the GSD said in a statement.
“It would be stranger still if some of these officers were to subsequently surface in the McGrail inquiry to give evidence in respect of matters that were not central to the original issues that led to the former Commissioner spectacularly falling out with the Chief Minister and being asked to retire in June 2020.”
“Additionally, is this evidence being directly or indirectly encouraged in an attempt to hurl diversionary counter allegations at former Commissioner McGrail in an inquiry that is politically damaging to the Chief Minister?”
“If evidence of this type emerges in the inquiry then the entire circumstances and facts need to be shared with the inquiry chairman so that the motivations and enticements as well as the evidence are put before the inquiry.”
The GSD’s statement drew a furious response from No.6 Convent Place, which accused Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition, of waging a “witch hunt” against the Government.
No.6 said the Government had a statutory legal obligation to protect whistle blowers.
“If the GSD is suggesting that the Government should not act in keeping with the laws passed by our Parliament, Mr Azopardi should explain on what basis he is making such an extraordinary assertion,” No.6 said in the statement.
“If the GSD is saying that the evidence of these officers is not credible, they should explain on what basis they seem to justify not applying the benefit of the law to them and how the GSD in government would apply the law as they see fit rather than equally across the board.”
“The fact is that the evidence in question will have to be judged as credible or not by a relevant tribunal that has the officers‘ evidence before it.”
“Until then, the GSD is showing a remarkable partiality and lack of judgement in seeking to side with anyone against the Government even when the Government is acting to give effect to the law of Gibraltar.”