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Promotion denied because I’m foreign, claims British cop

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A British police officer claims he missed out on a promotion while serving with the Bermuda Police Service because he is a foreigner.

And Michael Harkin also claims that senior police officers decided not to renew his contract in an act of “retaliation” after he sought advice about his initial complaint from the Human Rights Commission.

An HRC hearing yesterday heard that Mr Harkin was one of nine officers who passed a Sergeant’s exam in the summer of 2009. However, although he achieved the fourth highest pass mark, the eight other candidates who were Bermudian were promoted ahead of him.

He was later told that his promotion was being deferred because his work permit was due to expire in six months and that he would be promoted only if and when the Department of Immigration renewed his permit. The officer arrived in Bermuda in February 2005 on a five-year contract.

When told that his promotion was being delayed, Mr Harkin who now serves with the West Midlands Police in his native UK obtained advice from the Human Rights Commission before filing a complaint with his superiors.

“I felt that I had passed the exam that was in front of me, put in a lot of hard work and passed on my merits,” Mr Harkin told the hearing, which was attended by Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva.

“There was no need for me to be held back there was a position waiting for me. I was discriminated against because, as a non-Bermudian, I was tied to a work permit. If I was Bermudian, this issue would never have come up.”

Questioned by BPS lawyer Richard Horseman, Mr Harkin acknowledged that immediate promotion is not always guaranteed.

“You were not told that you were not going to be promoted; you were told that your promotion was going to be deferred,” Mr Horseman said.

“You were asked to be patient while the matter was sorted out with the Department of Immigration, but you couldn’t accept a senior officer’s instruction.”

Mr Harkin’s lawyer Allan Doughty pointed out that while the service is required to hire Bermudians ahead of foreign nationals, Human Rights laws ruled that Bermudian officers should not be promoted ahead of foreign officers simply on the grounds of nationality.

The only reason Mr Harkin’s promotion was deferred was because he was not Bermudian, he stated.

“Mr. Harkin had a reasonable expectation that he would be fourth in line to be promoted,” Mr Doughty said.

“The Human Rights Act takes precedent over the Immigration and Protection Act.”

The hearing also heard of numerous allegations of misconduct against Mr Harkin. He attended a meeting wearing the wrong belt, and had shown up late for a shift on two occasions.

But Mr Harkin, a firearms expert, explained that the reason he had been dressed inappropriately was because he attended the meeting immediately after coming off duty and was unaware that the meeting was formal.

While he acknowledged that he had twice arrived late for work, he pointed out that a complex new rota was causing confusion among officers.

“This was a man that Bermuda needed - a crack-shot,” Mr Doughty said, adding that assessments had concluded his client “would make a first-class Sergeant”.

“Despite the best efforts of the respondent to cast aspersions on Mr Harkin’s character, it is clear that Mr Harkin had a clean service record.”

The hearing continues today.

Dispute: Pictured are Michael Harkin and his lawyer Allan Doughty. The British policeman claims the Bermuda Police Service decided not to renew his contract after he sought advice from the Human Rights Commission. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)
Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published February 20, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated February 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm)

Promotion denied because I’m foreign, claims British cop

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