Removal of “second police chief” fails to stabilise situation at top of force

Martin Červíček, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic recently found itself in a bizarre situation, with two officers simultaneously holding the post of chief of police. However, even after the dismissal of one of them on Tuesday it could well be some time before stability returns to the post of police president.

Martin Červíček,  photo: CTK
Martin Červíček was appointed head of the Czech Republic’s police force in August 2012. The move followed the sacking of his predecessor Petr Lessy, who faced accusations of abuse of office and defamation.

However, after a court cleared Lessy he was reinstated as police president in December by the current minister of the interior, Martin Pecina.

The trouble was that Červíček refused to budge. That left the country in the farcical and unprecedented situation of formally having not one but two police chiefs.

On Tuesday Minister Pecina, acting on the recommendation of a ministry commission, removed Červíček and questioned the manner of his appointment in the first place.

“At that time they acted in terrible haste, wanting to do everything in a single day. Significant mistakes occurred in the appointment of Colonel Červíček. That’s why the advisory commission recommended that I not follow the recommendation of the Institute of State and Law, but instead rescind the decision on the basis that it was unlawful.”

Martin Pecina,  photo: CTK
The commission had found that another deputy police chief, and not Červíček, should have been promoted to the top post last year.

However, the latter’s lawyer, Josef Kopřiva, says the verdict was a foregone conclusion – and that his client will contest it.

“The commission had to decide as it did because it was directly subordinate to the minister. If you look at its composition, all three members were his direct subordinates… We will of course put forward an analysis, that’s the first step under the law, and then we will file an administrative complaint.”

Now unchallenged as police president, Petr Lessy appeared alongside the interior minister on Tuesday. He told reporters that he was ready to offer his resignation just as soon as Pecina is replaced, most probably by Milan Chovanec of the Social Democrats.

Chovanec told Czech Television that both Lessy and Červíček are free to apply for the job of top cop in the future. But the process may well take place some time after he takes the helm at the Ministry of the Interior.

Petr Lessy,  photo: CTK
“Until a possible court case on the part of Mr. Červíček is resolved, it’s not possible to choose a police chief. I can’t allow it to happen that three or four months after the selection of a new one Mr. Červíček returns under a court order – and we again have two police presidents. Until then, no selection process can be held and Mr. Lessy can head the force.”

But will Lessy stick around? He has been strongly linked to the position of chief of police in neighbouring Slovakia.

In any case, though only one man now holds the reigns, the situation at the top of the Czech police force is still some way from being stable.