Top court stays challenged provisions on staffing in police

Ljubljana – The Constitutional Court has stayed in a narrow decision the implementation of the recently adopted provisions of an act regulating police work related to termination of contracts, following a request for constitutional review filed by the SPS police trade union.

The trade union had challenged three articles of the organisation and work of the police act dealing with appointments of the heads of first-level organisational units of the General Police Administration, of directors of police administrations and of police station commanders.

The SPS believes that the articles allow for “staffing purges” and “open the door wide to interference of politics and other interest groups in the structure of the police”.

It had thus proposed the articles be stayed as it believes that the consequences of their further implementation would be greater than the consequences of their suspension until the final decision of the Constitutional Court.

The trade union has noted that people in leading positions in the police already face direct consequences brought by decisions to terminate contracts and carry out special selection procedure that are difficult to remedy.

The changes, which entered into force on 13 November, brought changes regarding the placement and autonomy of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is now a unit subordinated to the Criminal Police Administration.

Furthermore, the terms of office have been terminated for about 130 officers in leading positions, including directors of the uniformed and criminal police departments, directors of all eight police departments and 110 police station commanders.

The Constitutional Court said in the decision that was first announced by the SPS on Facebook that had it not stayed the challenged provisions, the special selection procedures would have started for new persons in these leading positions.

The current holders of these posts would meanwhile leave the posts and, if the court determined eventually that the provisions were unconstitutional, there would be conflict between the right of the new holders of the posts to keep them and the right of the previous holders to return to these posts.

“The implementation of the challenged provisions until the final decision … could have thus cause harmful consequences that are difficult to repair or even irreparable for at least one of the mentioned groups of employees,” it added.

The Constitutional Court has adopted the decision in a five-to-four vote, with Klemen Jaklič and Rajko Knez issuing dissenting opinions and Rok Čeferin issuing a concurring opinion.

Lawyer Matjaž Šaloven, who had submitted the request, said on behalf of the SPS that the decision “has at least temporarily prevented politicisation of the Slovenian police” and noted that all special selection procedures had been halted.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs commented on the request at a recent session of the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, noting that former Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar had called for changes to the act that would introduce limited mandates for leadership positions in the police.

Hojs said that staying of the changes would be unnecessary and would cause additional problems, adding that no person at managerial posits would lose their job due to the changes and that only police officers could run for these posts.

Police Commissioner Anton Olaj has also rejected allegations of politicisation of the police raised in the public following the information that directors of police administrations and police station chiefs received contract terminations.