Gardaí reluctant to speak out through fear, audit finds

Gardaí are still reluctant to speak out or report wrongdoing despite all the controversies and reforms, the first ever Garda cultural audit reveals.

The survey also uncovers an organisation with a “disconnect” between senior and junior ranks, fuelled by “disillusionment” and “resentment” at the perceived nepotism and favouritism in promotions.

The cultural audit, completed by 40% of all Garda employees or 6,560 sworn members and civilians, also found:

  • High levels of “scepticism and even cynicism” among members of a genuine commitment by Garda leadership to change the organisation or that action will follow the audit;
  • The lack of frontline supervision of rank and file gardaí was a “critical” gap and posed a “significant risk” for the organisation;
  • There was a need to “fix the basics”, including the Garda uniform, vehicles and mobile technology as well as provide training

On an index of 1-10 in terms of implementing the Garda code of ethics, members only scored 5.5 in terms of speaking up and reporting wrongdoing which the report said was a “disappointing overall result”.

The audit, conducted by consultants PwC, said there was a particularly low score (3.6) for making people feel listened to.

“Members described how they feel they cannot speak up due to either fear [fear of repercussion] or futility [nothing will come of it],” the report said.

In addition to the survey, PwC conducted focus groups with members and found that those who speak up are seen as a “nuisance” or a “problem person”.

It said people felt that they would not be listened to nor would any action be taken while others feared repercussions, which would have a negative impact on potential promotion opportunities, access to training, success in transfer requests.

The survey found low levels of trust in Garda management and a significant “disconnect” between senior leadership and ranks below.

It said a sharp divergence between them was the belief among frontline ranks of a “real lack or meritocracy” and strong perceptions of favouritism and nepotism.

“Real or not, this view has created disillusionment and resentment across the organisation,” it said.

Asked what were the “unwritten rules” of the organisation, members said the main one was this “who you know” culture.

They said the second was “keeping your head down” and not rocking the boat or challenging things. The third was the sense of camaraderie and sticking with your colleagues, while the fourth was keeping yourself “covered” in terms of demands for accountability.

The report said positive aspects of Garda culture included the role of gardaí in the community, the sense of teamwork/camaraderie, the “can-do” attitude despite limited resources and going above the call of duty.

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