There is only one bad Garda in Ireland you know, the rest are great. That bad Garda, he’s the fella that turns all the criminals into informers and gives them a licence to kill. He’s the fella broke into the Garda data banks and falsified all the data on drink driving and it would seem everything. He’s the fella that helped ship heroin. He’s the bad Garda that impersonated the Garda Commissioner and directed the Garda press office to spread the worst rumours possible about whistle blowers. He’s some Boyoh that same bad Garda.
Oh, don’t forget his mate Culture, oooh that Culture is one to be watched. It’s that Culture fella puts bad Garda up to it you know, it isn’t really bad Garda’s fault.
The above is the general narrative of the naïve we hear daily surrounding the ongoing Gardaí and ministerial controversies. In essence, the line goes that there’s a few corrupt members, mainly at the top according to the forming narrative, and that something called “culture” drives the dynamic that creates the few bad-uns.
I must be brazenly frank here as smooth talk isn’t working it would seem. I achieved a PhD exploring organisational culture in public organisations and how to change them and I know that academic speak sometimes doesn’t cut the mustard, so here goes. The Gardaí Siochána is a cesspit of egotistical, paranoid, pathological, image-managing individuals that are trained to be so and amongst that majority there is a tiny minority unable to cope with that culture and unwilling to contribute to it.
You see culture isn’t solely about arts and the likes, or far-off tribes and historical existences. Culture is about our belief systems and how we manifest those beliefs in what we do and what we create. In terms of the culture of an organisation, it has two phases and locations of development: academia (in this case training college) and the organisation (actually placement in the Garda Station and the community). Arguably, the latter phase and location dominates the organisational culture of the force.
When the new recruit just out of Templemore puts his or her first step inside a station door after training and learning his/her “ethics” as a “qualified” Garda after 32 weeks, the inculcation of pathological characteristics begins in the station. I cannot at this juncture say much about the training side of things in the Garda College, but understanding how any organisation reproduces pathology is easily conjectured, especially in the instance of An Gardaí Síochána.
So there’s a new recruit been given a post in his first station. He is delighted, baby on the way, looking at houses, the family are over the moon and so proud, life couldn’t be better. On the first Saturday night on duty with experienced members he notices how those arrested, especially certain types, are manhandled and joked about by fellow members, maybe in front of the detainee, maybe in the back-office.
The recruit’s a little surprised, but hey, it’s a tough job requiring tough people so what do you do? He’s a sensitive soul and so he also notices the language being used, very much them-and-us talk, as though the community are the enemy. There’s a lot of banter and macho-ism.
Over the following weeks he notices that there are a few officers who seem to rule the roost and they often get heavy handed with detainees and some of those officers hold senior and detective positions. He sits in on a number of interviews with witnesses and suspects involving detectives and the discussions afterwards and notices that witnesses are treated as suspects. His colleagues suggest to each other and agree, as though he was not there, to “turn” the suspect into an informant and to offer him no charges in exchange for information on others.
“Well what can I do, I’m only new and sure it’s a tough job, not always black and white….” And so on, until the recruit realises he, by witnessing such things and saying nothing, is now in some sense culpable also.
Then there’s a complaint, one of the roosters injured someone badly, he comes to the recruit and asks that he say he wasn’t present. Pressure is brought to bear, the recruit makes the required statement, he is now fully baptised in the culture. Another recruit refused to lie for the Rooster and he was moved to another station after a period of isolation.
Our recruit is now a fully-fledged Garda, aware of the processes, the beliefs and values, the methods and the rewards and punishments, the dog has been trained and honed in the dog-pit.
From then on the Garda must wear two masks, the smiling mask for the respectable community to see as a group, and then the twisted mask for those who fall under his gaze and the gaze of his colleagues individually.
There are those Gardaí of course who remain in the main silent and passive throughout much of their career when witnessing the corruptions of their colleagues (like our recruit in his initiation), but their silence is in itself passive-aggressive and reaps its own rewards in personal circumstances and when needs-be.
From top to bottom, if you train your dog to be aggressive and disrespectful, don’t be surprised when he bites you ….