Elements of improper discrimination

The complaint

A senior police officer objected to a decision by the Commissioner of Police not to authorise the inscription of his name and rank on a commemorative plaque in the police depot.  The complainant felt aggrieved because he had always performed his duties responsibly, honourably and with competence.  He submitted that the Commissioner’s hasty decision not to authorise the inscription of his name on the plaque was due to personal pique and rumours that put the police corps in a very bad light.  He also alleged he was a victim of improper discrimination.

Commissioner’s reply

The Office of the Commissioner of Police strongly objected to these allegations.  It submitted that the Commissioner’s decision was solely based on the context, tradition, precedent and loyalty towards historical correctness of what is usually registered on similar plaques. He further submitted that there was no doubt that complainant did not occupy the position that entitled him to have his name engraved on the plaque.

The investigation

This Office investigated the complaint in detail.  It examined the documentation submitted by the Commissioner of Police, including research studies made by experts in the history of the Police Corps.  The research was correct and trustworthy.  The Ombudsman concluded that the decision of the Commissioner was well founded and that the complaint was not justified on the grounds of historical precedent.

The Ombudsman then examined the allegation that the Commissioner of Police has improperly discriminated and was therefore guilty of maladministration motivated by pique or personal manoeuvres.

The Ombudsman made the following important observations on the elements of improper discrimination:

  1. There cannot be improper discrimination, resulting from an act of maladministration, if the decision that aggravated complainant was taken in an objective manner, was reasonable and well-motivated. It was established that the commemorative plaque had been and was being used according to constant and uniform practice.  One had necessarily to conclude therefore that the decision was objectively correct.  There was no evidence that the decision was taken with the aim of aggravating complainant or for any reason dictated by prejudice or other ulterior personal motivation.
  1. The decision was also well motivated. The reasons for the Commissioner’s decision were objectively valid and unequivocal.
  1. In examining whether a decision was improperly discriminatory, one had to establish whether it was reasonable. One had to analyse whether complainant had suffered prejudice that was disproportionate to the administrative decision taken. The facts of the case were not such as to sustain the test of “unreasonableness”.  It did not result that it was motivated by irrelevant considerations or ulterior motives.  It was a decision taken by the competent authorities through a correct exercise of their discretion, to determine whose name should be inscribed on the commemorative plaque that ultimately only registered a historical fact.

Conclusion

The Ombudsman therefore concluded that the decision of the Commissioner of Police could not be qualified as an act of maladministration or of improper discrimination.  The complaint was therefore dismissed.

 

Case Studies