EDITORIAL: ‘Measurement’ has become big in police forces across the world. Yet how do you actually measure a police officer’s performance in their job? Today, it’s all about numbers and metrics. If you respond to a call very quickly, deal with it, and then take it off the system even more expeditiously, that is a job well done. Frontline gardaí who are therefore considered to be fast, efficient and productive, tend to be the winners in the eyes of their superiors.
But how do you measure the work of a community garda on the beat? What algorithm has been devised to access, measure and reward this type of critical policing? The answer is none, yet the work done by Frontline gardaí within their communities is what ensures that, notwithstanding years of turmoil in the Force, some 80%+ of the population consistently say they have trust in their local gardaí.
This writer paid a recent visit to a rural station in the West of Ireland for a day to access exactly what rural community policing means in late 2018. Here, as a snapshot, is what it means on the ground. For the garda that I had the pleasure of being with, it means calling into two very sick and elderly gentlemen who live beside each other, who can get no peace at night due to a rowdy neighbour. It means talking to these men as equals and ignoring the destitution you see around you to look into their hearts.
It means calling around to schools on their break and getting a welcome from the kids and teachers, the likes of which I have never seen – they all know him, and he knows them all. It means calling into the remote holding of man who has served time in prison himself and now lives what can only be described as a chaotic lifestyle and yet still treating him as the vulnerable adult he is. It means calling up to a house where a young lad is known to play truant to make sure he has gotten up and gone to school and then afterwards advising his mother.
In truth, community policing – whether urban or rural – means everything and yet it is still regarded by many as the poor relation of metric work performances driven tables. Measuring output is critical in any job or profession and the gardaí must of course be no different. Indeed, every Frontline garda is aware of the target driven world they live in.
They must however also be equally credited for the qualitative, unseen work they do in the community every day – the work for which the statisticians still appear to have no formula.
It’s well past time they found one.
For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.