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Has PWC had the guts to say what the Police really need?

  • January 19th, 2011

If I could find the PWC report for the State Services Commission on the Police I'd be searching to see whether PWC had the insight and the courage to put the blame for slowness in improving the police culture and organisation where it belongs – squarely on the shoulders of the well meaning fools responsible for employment law's creation in the last 20 years of a right to stay in your job until someone can prove you are incompetent.  The SSC seem not to have bothered to make the report available on its website, so we are left to rely so far on media selection for what is important in the report.

It was good to hear Howard Broad on Morning Report defending himself from the unfairness of the attack, and in his bumbling way pointing to the true culprit. What he said rang true to me. I've posted on his predicament before (in 2007 and 2008 (also here) and 2009 )

There is limitless frustration for any employer determined to get the best staff where they are needed. Employment lawyers and unionists might splutter, but for practical purposes it is rational to assume that the law will not let you dismiss or downgrade or discipline without catching the unsuitable person with their hand inthe till.  The law assumes that it is not a sufficient or valid reason that someone availablecould do a better job, or that the chemistry in a team is not right, though no one is "at fault" or that there is not sufficient confidence in someone, rightly or wrongly, or that suspicion is corroding energy or trust or focus, but it is not feasible or worthwhile to try to establish why. Employment law has been allowed to trump company law (directors are liable for leaving duties to be performed by people they have reason not to trust, but they are not allowed to dismiss or demote them unless they've got it proved, and been through the procedural lunacies crafted by stupid lawyers).

More importantly it has been allowed to trump the interests of fellow employees and customers and the community generally in organisations being free to elevate values like trust and merit promotion and speed of response to complaints and the consistency and decisiveness that is essential to build and sustain high performing organisations. Instead they must pretend to place higher value on avoiding procedural mistakes, and avoiding hurt feelings for people disappointed that their bosses or colleagues do not value them as highly as they value themselves.

There is no evidence that the drawn out pain of employment law's processes actually improve the ultimate outcomes even for those tempted into using them, thus feeding the incomes of those who run them.

If Police Minister Collins was determined to empower the good people in her force, and to remove the excuses for inaction from those made cynical by a resistant culturel, she'd  get her Cabinet colleagues to use some of their ration of policy courage to  restore Police leader powers to deploy subordinates without having to bog down in procedures designed by stupid lawyers. 

The esprit de corps of a uniformed force is always at risk of turning septic, against outsiders. From the sound of the PWC report there is a huge pool of lower level leadership in the Police that has ceased to worry about the power of senior leadership to discipline. As Police Association President Greg O'Connor  pointed out this morning the Police is necessarily a command and control organisation.

When an accounting firm pans the Police culture the 'culture' may close ranks. The Government better be very careful indeed or they could find that the mass of the Police will become more cynical and choose to ignore what they'll see as the irrelevant PC concerns of the top, If they are expected to 'transform' without the legal powers to do what is needed, that cynicism will extend to much more than ending the macho culture PWC appears to think is resisting elimination.


  • Don McKenzie
  • January 19th, 2011
  • 3:06 pm

Bang on Stephen and right on the button.

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