Published On: Thu, Dec 2nd, 2021

Police officer scores decisive victory against justice ministry

PHILIPSBURG — A police officer with more than ten years of service to his name scored a decisive victory against the Ministry of Justice after a long battle about his promotion, first to police officer and then to sergeant. The court that handles civil servants affairs ordered the ministry to take a decision within four weeks about the promotion. For non-compliance it imposed a penalty of 400 guilders ($223) per day with a maximum of 30,000 guilders ($16,760).

The plaintiff, represented in court by attorney Cor Merx, entered the service of the justice ministry on July 25, 2011, as a Bavpol-trainee. On June 15, 2016, he was promoted by national decree to the function basic police care, retroactively per February 1 of that year. On May 8, 2017, the court voided this national decree.

Almost three years later, on February 11, 2020, the former minister of justice offered the officer a settlement: promotion per February 1, 2013, to police officer and promotion to sergeant per February 1, 2016.

But the settlement did not result in any action. On August 28, 2020, the plaintiff wrote a letter to the ministry, asking it to abide by the settlement. The minister of justice did not take a decision and therefore the plaintiff took his case to court.

On May 10, 2021, the court declared the plaintiff’s appeal founded and ordered the ministry to take a decision within four weeks.

The ministry issued a decree after this decision that is dated May 3, 2021, in the court ruling – a week before the court ruling. This date cannot be correct, because it must obviously have been issued after the ruling.

Anyway, the decree, officially dated May 3, 2021, added an article to the national decree of June 15, 2016. It states (only) that the national decree takes effect retroactively to February 1, 2013.

The plaintiff objected, because this decree did not abide by the settlement agreement of February 11, 2020, that regulated his retroactive promotions.

During the court hearing on November 15, the ministry’s attorney Peggy Ann Brandon said that the minister had withdrawn the contested national decree and that a new draft national decree, containing the correct appointment and promotion, was ready.

The court ruled that the national decree of May 3, 2021, is incomplete, because it contains nothing about the plaintiff’s promotions. It ordered the ministry to take a new decision within four weeks that abides by the settlement agreement.

The court expressed its displeasure with the ministry’s behavior by imposing a “higher than usual” penalty for noncompliance because of the way the ministry had handled the plaintiff’s dossier over the years. The ministry also has to pay the legal plaintiff’s legal costs of 1,400 guilders ($782).

“Look how angry the judge is,” Merx said in a brief comment on the ruling. “She even goes beyond our demands by imposing a penalty.”

In an invited comment, the Minister of Justice stated that the decisions although not rendered against the Minister of Justice, as they pertained to corrections to National decrees to be made, found it unfortunate that the officers had not yet received the corrected National decrees prepared. Given that the corrected National decrees did not reach the officers timely based on a prior court ruling it is within the practice of the court to attach a penalty. The court and the attorney of the officers were informed that the corrected National decrees were in process not solely with the correction requested but with updated promotions.

So, in fact, the Ministry of Justice through this opportunity sought to enhance the position of the officers beyond their own request, which was merely to correct the wording in the National decree of earlier this year without impact to their position or financial consequences The expectation is that the pertinent National decrees will be in the hands of the officers within short.

As Minister of Justice, I seek daily to correct what has not occurred through the years, however what may be 10 years overdue is now addressed in a matter of months. Fully understanding the frustration built up over the years, I vow with my team to continue working on the improvement of the position of all Justice workers. With the signing of the function books for Justice imminent this will be a reality soon; the Minister was quoted as saying.