Faro || All it took was one fateful lunch for two Faro police officers to lose their jobs.
Paulo Gonçalves and João Mestre, who have been living in the Algarve for over 10 years, say they have been “kicked out” of Faro PSP’s Intervention Corps Unit (Corpo de Intervenção de Faro, or CI), allegedly for organising a lunch in June 2014 to protest against their commanding officer’s “heavy-handed” style of leadership.
Paulo Rodrigues, the president of the PSP police union ASPP, told the Resident that the decision not to renew the two officers’ contracts had been sparked by the officers’ “brave willingness to speak their minds”. It could not be due to their performance, he said, as they were considered “excellent and dedicated professionals”.
“There had been a tense atmosphere at Faro’s CI for a long time,” he told us.
“We started receiving complaints in 2012 that the commander was heavy-handed in his approach to leadership,” the union leader explained, adding that the union even met with the commander to discuss the situation.
However, said Rodrigues, “nothing changed” after the meeting. “If anything, the atmosphere only got worse.”
Eventually, the officers decided to organise a lunch to discuss concerns about what was going on – a lunch that ASPP believes was pivotal to the unit’s decision to let Gonçalves and Mestre go at the beginning of 2015.
“You can’t kick agents out of a unit just because they drew attention to their plight and spoke their mind,” the union president said.
The two men are expected to be transferred to a unit in Lisbon, he said, although it is unlikely that they will be absorbed into another Corpo de Intervenção.
“Not only will they be making considerably less money, but they will have to move their whole lives to a completely different place,” he added.
For Rodrigues, the whole ordeal is an “attack on police officers’ rights” as he feels he and his colleague are being denied the right to “free speech”.
“Once you start attacking the rights of police officers, you are basically threatening the rights of citizens,” he said, accusing PSP’s national board of “ignoring” a situation that is breeding “fear amongst officers” in Faro.
“What we need to know is if this wave of fear is being promoted by the government or PSP?” the union president concluded.
ASPP has already requested a meeting with Parliament and the Minister of Internal Administration Anabela Rodrigues to discuss the matter.
Meantime, the PSP’s national board has refused to comment on the situation, saying only that the “non-renewal” of the officers’ CI contracts was a “legal human resources decision” made by PSP’s Special Police Units (UEP).
By MICHAEL BRUXO