An Garda Síochána has recently commenced the roll out of PALF, the competency- based Performance, Accountability and Learning Framework. Paul Franey investigates
Young people who are interested in a career in An Garda Síochána often wonder whether or not they have what it takes to become a ‘good’ garda. There are no hard and fast answers to this question but what follows is a list of the qualities a good garda, or in fact any police officer, should posess.
In 2018 every member will be required to engage with PALF – the new performance management system. My advice is that career oriented gardaí should take the following steps if they wish to be promoted or selected for a specialist post:
1. Examine the competencies required for the role you want and identify what you can and cannot demonstrate effectively.
2. Commit to filling your competency gaps by setting yourself goals which both demonstrate the competencies required and are relevant to the role you are applying for.
3. Have a conversation with your supervisors and managers, outlining what your goals are and how committed you are to them.
4. Ask for guidance from those who have responsibility for your development. Ask your District Officer if there are any priority tasks in the District he or she needs support on, which could facilitate your gaining the skills and competencies you are currently missing.
5. Set yourself SMART Goals (Specific, Stretch goals; Measurable and Motivational (Mine!); Action Oriented and Achievable; Relevant and Realistic; and Time bound)
6. Find a person to support you and to regularly hold you to account in achieving the goals you have set.
7. Keep a detailed diary or list of your achievements as you progress.
8. When you achieve, go again and set another stretch goal.
The majority of the above steps, are directly supported by or align well with, the new PALF process.
The competencies in the PALF system and those used in both the lateral appointments and the promotion processes are not perfectly aligned, however, they do overlap considerably. There is ample room for you to set yourself goals that will support both your personal growth and your career aspirations.
The operational competencies such as Prevention, Incident Detection, Investigation and Prosecution, Specialist Expertise and Policing in the Community are wide enough for you to set yourself goals to address almost any competency and develop the skills relevant to almost any role you may be interested in.
Excellent performance can be captured on-line using the PALF IT system and the evidence is there for your managers to see and for you to refer to.
The requirement to link personal PALF goals to local policing plan goals provides an opportunity to identify what is important both locally and nationally, and to contribute towards those initiatives. It would be a worthwhile exercise having a conversation with your supervisor/manger to see where you can best work to support District goals and how you can link that into your promotion competencies.
Community-policing focused initiatives provide a wealth of opportunity to demonstrate your competencies. Presentations to local groups and schools’ visits can be used to show Effective Communication skills. Engagement with community groups and addressing local public order hot spots can provide opportunities to show Negotiating and Influencing skills and Personal Drive and Commitment. Have a look at your local policing plan. There will be many opportunities across a wide range of operational and administrative areas for growth.
Also, within reason, think outside your everyday role if you need experience. You don’t have to be a Community Garda to tackle local community problems. You don’t have to be on a Roads Policing unit to set traffic related goals. If you need experience in a certain area, proactively look for it.
The ongoing battle between qualitative and quantitative measurements of success in policing shouldn’t detract from your using numeric targets if they suit both the goal and your development. Supervisors cannot instruct personnel to set numeric goals, however, this doesn’t mean you can’t set them yourself.
There is nothing wrong with numeric targets once there is clarity on what they are, why they are important, and how they will positively impact policing. The 2018 national policing plan sets a target of increasing ‘Lifesaver’ offence detections by 10%. This is a perfect example of where your goals can fit in with the policing plan and provide evidence to support an application for a specialist section.
Lastly, for the many members who do not want to be promoted or transferred to a specialist unit, PALF provides an opportunity to focus on the valuable work that you are currently doing. Reflecting on the value of the work that you do is important for your wellbeing and central to your capacity to enjoy coming into work every day. Set yourself a goal, achieve it, reflect on your success. Whether you do it just for you or for the community you serve, success and more importantly, reflecting the value of the important work that you do, will enhance your mental health and happiness at work.
PALF is new and the system will take some time to bed in. It is, however, an important first step in facilitating conversations between gardaí, supervisors and managers. How it is used, is of course up to each individual.
Inspector Paul Franey is attached to Garda Headquarters. For more career-related articles visit his page @promoteyourselfcoaching on Facebook.
For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.