The Gibraltar Defence Police Federation [GDPF] has broadly welcomed the findings of an independent review of the Gibraltar Defence Police but, in doing so, has once again raised concerns about the force’s management and its Chief Police Officer.
Federation members, who include most GDP officers, had already expressed their dissatisfaction last April with a majority vote of no confidence in their most senior officer.
Federation members reaffirmed that position with a second majority vote last week, in which they also expressed their backing for the GDPF committee in what has become a tense stand-off with the military command.
The row comes against the wider backdrop of the GDPF’s hopes for a transfer of the force from the Ministry of Defence to the Gibraltar Government, at a time when specialist GDP officers are increasingly being called on to support their colleagues in the Royal Gibraltar Police with crucial duties outside the military estate including armed response and patrols at sea.
The GDPF welcomed the majority of the 44 wide-ranging organisational recommendations made by the review team and said it was committed to assisting in the implementation of what it described as “necessary and important” changes.
But the second vote of no confidence in the Chief Police Officer will set the Federation and its members on a collision course with senior military managers here, who have expressed full confidence in the Chief Police Officer.
When the report’s findings were made public last week, Commander British Force Commodore Mike Walliker said the first vote was “unfounded” and “should not have occurred”.
“[The Chief Police Officer’s] position today is absolutely as strong as it ever has been,” Commodore Walliker said at the time, a view unlikely to change in the wake of the second vote.
Commodore Walliker said the Chief Police Officer also enjoyed the full confidence of the Governor and the Joint Force Command.
According to the CBF, the review had identified that the GDPF was “top heavy”, meaning the Chief Police Officer was unable to properly manage his force “…because the Federation was over-represented at the more senior ranks.”
In a statement to the Chronicle yesterday, the Federation firmly rejected that position and accused the military command of attempting to undermine the GDPF by suggesting it was an obstacle to reform, while ignoring mounting dissatisfaction and low morale in the ranks.
“The absurd suggestion that GDPF is somehow subverting the workforce is directly contradicted by the review,” the Federation said.
The findings of the review have not been made public but the GDPF said “38 of its 44 recommendations address organisation-wide issues that fall squarely under the responsibility of the Senior Management Board and the Chief Police Officer.”
“Only six recommendations are directed towards the GDPF, and address fairly minor issues,” it added.
“The extensive ‘restorative’ work that is recommended is a direct result of senior management oversights or senior management shortfalls, and again lies with the Senior Management Board and the Chief Police Officer to resolve through improved attitudes, approaches and behaviour towards fellow GDP officers by means of external oversight.”
Against this backdrop, the GDPF committee said it had been forced to revisit the April vote of no confidence, which it said members had demanded even before the current committee was constituted.
“The request for a motion for the vote and the support it received at the time was genuine, and based on wholesale discontent on a range of issues throughout the organisation,” the GDPF said.
The Federation called an emergency general meeting on October 18 and conducted an anonymous closed ballot that was monitored by external observers including a member of the GDP senior management board, the independent review team, the chairman of the Royal Gibraltar Police Federation, the chairman of anti-bullying organization Dignity at Work Gibraltar and a barrister from Hassans.
The ballot excluded the five GDPF committee members and had a participation of 86% of the Federation’s membership, whose votes were opened and counted under the supervision of the review team and representatives of the RGP Federation.
A majority of the Federation’s membership continued to express their vote of no confidence in the Chief Police Officer and confirmed they had not been pressured in any way by the GDPF to express that view, the Federation said.
An overwhelming majority of the membership also expressed full confidence in the GDPF and said they did not want a re-election of the present committee, according to the Federation.
“The outcome of a validated and fully democratic process, free from pressure or intimidation, has produced a clear message that should not be ignored or dismissed,” the GDPF said.
“The GDPF would like to stress that these results should not in any way undermine the sterling work of the review team, which enjoys our full support and trust.”
“If anything, it reinforces the need for continuity and further necessary work to progress matters in the right direction and satisfy the legitimate aspirations of an eventual transfer [to the Government of Gibraltar].”
The Federation said the vote should also bring to an end the “ridiculous characterisation” of the GDPF as the core of the problems at the force.
“This continuing rejection of accountability from the Chief Police Officer and Command undermines our confidence in positive change, but we remain hopeful that external oversight and unbiased adjudication will deliver a new era of respect and responsibility throughout the GDP, and prevent any abuses of position or power,” the GDPF said.
“We hope that the process of implementation of these recommendations will ultimately convince and compel all GDP personnel and stakeholders to adhere to organisational practices and protocols appropriate to this day and age.”
The GDPF said many of the recommendations in the review team’s report were “long overdue” and would serve to bring checks and balances to achieve “a much-needed cultural shift in attitude and approaches through the GDP”.
“An essential part of this, proposed through several of the recommendations, is to have external oversight of the complaints and disciplinary processes to ensure fairness and objectivity,” it said.
“The external agency must be suitably empowered to censure and resolve such issues as they arise, regardless of rank or position.”
“This will greatly help the organisation to achieve a healthy work environment of harmony and mutual respect.”
But the GDPF also expressed concerns that it had only received a “sanitised” version of the report, not the full document, and sought assurances that nothing had been withheld that could inform decisions on how best to reform the force.