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Different powers for officers of different uniformed services – Foundation writes to Prime Minister

The conduct of criminal proceedings against officers of uniformed services has different legal consequences, depending on a particular piece of legislation regulating the area. At a glance, the laws applicable to officers of different law enforcement bodies are similar, but there are material differences regarding, for example, the consequences of a launch of criminal proceedings or application of pre-trial detention. The HFHR calls on the Prime Minister to undertake work aimed at addressing such differences.

First and foremost, applicable laws stipulate different grounds for the official suspension of officers subject to criminal proceedings.

“For instance, officers of the Prison Service are always put on suspension if detained pending trial, while the initiation of criminal proceedings in a case of an intentional criminal or fiscal offence prosecuted upon public allegation is in itself a sufficient basis for suspension of a police officer”, says Katarzyna Wiśniewska, a lawyer working with the HFHR.

A typical consequence of suspension is the withholding of the payment of one-half of the salary and statutory bonuses awarded during the period of suspension. However, also this rule is applied differently, and there are different rules on whether an officer is able to reclaim their entitlements to the withheld emoluments upon criminal proceedings are discontinued or end with an acquittal.

“Police laws introduce different regulations depending on such grounds as the application of pre-trial detention, date of termination of criminal proceedings or reasons for discontinuation”, Ms Wiśniewska adds.

Last but not least, different uniformed services have different time frames for reinstatement of disciplinary proceedings. The Constitutional Tribunal is now hearing a case (no. SK 18/14) brought by the constitutional complaint of K.W., which seeks to invalidate article 135r (5) of the Police Act, the provision that states that disciplinary actions against police officers may only be reinstated within five years from the issuance of a disciplinary ruling.

“Differences appearing in different laws may be surprising given substantive similarities in entry criteria for persons who want to join the ranks of different services. It seems that different treatment is a consequence of individual regulations being enacted in different periods”, notes Artur Pietryka, an attorney with the Helsinki Foundation’s Strategic Litigation Programme.

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