Policing bodies seek overhaul of promotion processes

Mark Toland.

The heads of two policing oversight bodies have signalled that selection and promotion processes in the gardaí need to be overhauled in order to combat perceptions of favouritism and unfairness.

Policing Authority chair Josephine Feehily and Garda Inspectorate chief Mark Toland both said this was the clear finding of a Garda Cultural Audit published last Friday.

The audit, the first of its type, was discussed yesterday at a meeting called by the authority and attended by various agencies, academics, and Garda associations.

The audit, conducted by consultants PwC, found that many members were still reluctant to speak out or report wrongdoing out of fear of repercussions or because it would be futile.

Based on a survey of 6,560 staff (40% of all employees) it uncovered a “disconnect” between senior and junior ranks, fuelled by “disillusionment” and “resentment” at the perceived nepotism and favouritism in promotions and selections.

Ms Feehily said the perception of favouritism internally was “pervasive” and “corrosive”. She said this was the evidence available to the authority coming from both the audit and other material.

Mr Toland said “people don’t have confidence in selection and promotion processes” and that this “needs to be addressed”.

He said this issue affected not just promotions but in terms of being selected for detective or transfer to other units as well as training.

He said there was a “lack of sense of security” in the process involved and said this could be either “perception or reality”.

Authority member Bob Collins said the issue of promotions was linked to the audit’s finding of a lack of frontline supervision.

He said the report found there was a “supervision vacuum” but that one in four gardaí did not trust the promotion process.

“You have a conundrum there,” said Mr Collins. “It identifies the problem, but questions the available solutions. The only way to resolve it is to take the promotion process out from being an internal activity.”

Eddie Molloy of the Policing Commission said Garda culture was “created” by its leadership and “sustained through the internal promotion process”.

He said what was needed was to “bring together a critical mass of people in senior echelons” who were up for changing the culture.

Policing Commission member Tim Dalton raised serious concerns at the “universally negative” tone in the wider community and in Leinster House, which he felt was “killing the gardaí” and the morale of its members.

“Have we gone too far?” he said. “If you want to reform an organisation you don’t do it by kicking people into reform.”

He said the gardaí was now portrayed as “almost a basket case”.

Deputy commissioner John Twomey said the audit showed “what we are saying about ourselves” and said it provided a “tremendous opportunity” for the organisation to drive change.

He said changing culture was “not a sprint, it’s a marathon” and that New Zealand police bosses had told him recently that it took them five years to turn things around.

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