On the 3rd September 2018 Drew Harris was sworn in as the new Garda commissioner. It was a little different, first off he is the first ‘foreigner’ to become commissioner but despite what some will have you believe, he is in fact far from the first commissioner that was not a serving Garda.
So we have change, its all about change now and we got some. Did we get enough? Only time will tell but at the moment it seems some love it, others hate it. I thought it might be an idea to run through the appointment with both the positive view and the negative to compare them.
Hes not a serving Garda is the first one up. Lets look at the negative to this, he doesnt know the law, he doesnt know the proceedures and he doesnt understand either the system or the internal workings. well, sorry but on this occasion I dont see the negative, in fact I think we might be getting the best of both worlds here, maybe. You see its all sorta correct, he doesnt understand the internal systems of An Garda Siochana but he does come from a police force and one that undertook huge almost complete change.
He is walking straight in without earning the rank. This is true, he hasnt worked his way up and that will show in his service but its also means he hasnt made his ranks sitting in an office coming up with brilliant ideas. Or he might have, he comes from a police force afterall. What it doesn mean is he has no allegiances to the current seniors or systems. Maybe he changes things.
His allegiances are confused. Coming from the PSNI he swore allegiance to the Queen and worked with the British intelligence agencies. Well yes, he did and we assume he meant it. While serving in the PSNI we also assume he kept to his oath but that oath does in fact not mean he does whatever needed. Thats not what the police swear under their oath. It only applies while he retains his office and at the moment, he doesnt. He is now working under his oath of office as the commissioner of An Garda Siochana which doesnt differ that much really. Replace the queen with the constitution and the rest sounds the same. However that all being said, the important part of the oath is that they uphold the law and perform their functions to the best of their abilities.
As for the intelligence agencies, thats not an issue. The previous commissioner had no inside knowledge from MI5 and the current one isnt allowed talk about his so no difference really. Of course we might also say that just by having the knowledge he brings more to the table than another option.
Using a functioning station to be sworn in. Many people see this as a sign that the new commissioner isnt afraid to go out where the work actually happens. As someone who wants to see the reality of policing at the front and not from behind and maybe it is, but equally so it must also be stated that he chose a shiny new station at a very quiet time when you can be guaranteed the area had been scrubbed and sterilised. Why not choose an old station? A busier station? Why not Store Street or Pearse Street? Pearse Street is a high volume station working within a building built 100 years ago albeit as a police station which puts it ahead of about half the stations in the country which are glorified old converted houses or portacabins. Maybe that was just a logistics question, or a security question or maybe just a way to put the new station in the papers to show how ‘modern’ we are.
Unannounced visits to stations. A situation that can be read many ways. A man looking to see the reality of whats out there, how stations really operate and what needs changing or a man who wanted to catch people out? Both could be true and both could be good. If the commissioners main concern on day one was catching a Garda on a quiet night shift on his phone while on a post or station duty, well I would suggest thats snake in the grass and petty but on the other hand, what else could be found? Stations not fit for task? Gardai understaffed and overworked? POintless jobs that coulde be abandoned so that too few Gardai are actually on patrol? The list is endless and this article isnt about all that is wrong within An Garda Siochana nor to highlight the good. Thats another day.
Hes actually pretty young for the job. I have to be honest, thats a rare one but its a positive I wanted to highlight, we need someone that can start and finish the changes. Not someone who will start, then leave meaning new change undoing or changing the as yet unfinished work.
At the end of the day, both serving rank and file and the population as a whole have not been left impressed by the last few commissioners. The population sees mess after mess, corruption and incompetance. Not all the finger pointing is fair but some of it is. Rank and file feel abandoned and ignored by their senior officers who when all is said and done are the people making the decisions but not those having to either implement those decisions, suffer those decisions or face the backlash when they go wrong. Maybe, just maybe a new outside influence can bring actual genuine change to the table. Someone not ingrained in the old, broken boys club system, someone who isnt afraid to implement genuine best practice from other forces and the private sector beyond calling everyone ‘stake holders’ while treating them like gullible fools who will believe anything (sadly a lot do). Someone who has seen policing and the community in good and bad, someone who has suffered as a victim but tackled as a police officer.
On that note, I finish up this little opinion piece looking forward to a new commissioner and hoping that this is the one that rings in genuine change for the better.
From the Emergency Services Forum, Welcome Commissioner Harris.