The Discipline Notice
At the heart of every healthy and resilient organisation is its culture. A culture can wax and wane, but it is the culture that creates the environment for a successful, productive and dynamic enterprise. At its cultural peak an organisation can be unassailable in its quest for success, at its worst it will destroy that very same organisation making it circumscribed, insipid, racked with problems producing lacklustre results.
Many of the influences on the culture dynamic are very subtle, and others not so, however, to re-energise a negative culture takes a particular management skill.
One of the things we do know from our experience is that a culturally sound and dynamic organisation is not plagued by embarrassing leaks to the media because there are no embarrassments to leak.
Media leaks are symptomatic of a culturally weak organisation, and the problem is exasperated by ‘Witch Hunts’, focusing on the source of the leak, rather than energy directed at solving the issue leaked.’ Witch Hunts’ are damaging to the culture and used by management to divert focus from their ineptitude.
We recommend the Force adopt a Discipline Penalty Notice (DPN) approach to discipline within the organisation capable of dealing with eighty per cent of the discipline matters of the organisation.
The focus of this system is to correct behaviours, and if that fails, to provide empirical evidence to terminate the police member.
The advantages of discipline notice are:
- The application of discipline can be closely monitored in both its application and impact, by location and individual managers and will remove or readily identify examples of harassment.
- Managers will not need to negotiate to avoid rationalisation debates and conflict.
- The system will be cost-effective by removing convoluted disciplinary procedures.
- To free up resources dedicated to disciplinary matters to further bolster frontline policing.
- To provide essential information for selection boards. Selection boards having access to notices issued against an applicant or where rank appropriate the number of notices issued by the applicant are both valuable inputs, to assess any applicant.
- Provide empirical data for any consideration of a member’s ability to remain in the organisation.
What might a Discipline Notice system look like?
The main components of the system should be:
- To recognise natural justice principles of fairness.
- To not be cumbersome.
- To ensure a single notice does not result in the imposition of a fine. However, the second notice in a predetermined period should activate both penalties.
- A period of six months without further breaches should see the expiration of the original notice and the original notice expunged from the records.
- The penalties must be scaled. However, the temptation for high penalties must be avoided as the application of this process has broader implications than the monetary penalty.
- A right of appeal within a predetermined period, for example, seven days, must be provided to either a nominated Panel and or the Police Discipline Board.
- Fines set ranging from $20 – $200 to discourage frivolous appeals.
- Penalties, when applied, must be recovered at the following pay period.
- Line managers must be given real-time data on the use of this process within their span of command to enable action to be taken against misuse.
- Notices must generally be issued at the time of the infringement, delaying the issuing minimises the effect.
- Once a Notice is issued, the onus will shift to the member to justify the breach on appeal.
The kinds of discipline offences that might be included are:
Not being available to start work at the rostered time.
Ceasing duty before the allotted shift expiration.
Presenting for duty with a hairstyle that does not comply with the policy.
Failing to maintain footwear in a serviceable and clean condition.
Failing to wear headwear outside the precincts of a police building.
Failing to properly brief fellow officers on matters likely to affect their performance of duty or adversely affect the public.
Unauthorised access to material on the Police Intranet.
Use of police IT resources for other than Police work.
Abusive or belligerent behaviour in the workplace.
Making racial or sexist slurs or gestures.
Failing to report to superiors incidents of harassment, bullying or sexually inappropriate behaviour of others.
Failing to comply with a supervisor’s reasonable and lawful instruction.
Failing to complete required correspondence in a timely manner.
Failing to properly deal with a member of the Public.
Failing to follow up on a report by a member of the public.
Failing to be courteous or compassionate to a member of the public.
Failing to maintain Police equipment in a serviceable condition.
The unauthorised release of information to the media.
Asleep on duty.
Failing to perform the allocated rostered duty.
These are but a few matters that can be dealt with under this process. There is no doubt there are many more that can be added to the list — the more added, the less need for specialist investigators.
This process will be a huge step in moving decision making from a centralised system closer to where the action causing the beach is played out and empowers line managers to take greater control of their area of responsibility.
With this proposal outline, we are confident that a small committed team could have this system operational in a reasonably short period. The success of the program will be the implementation with deliberate acceptance that once it is operational, there will be the need for adjustments until the best process evolves. This is a principle used widely and effectively in the private sector.
Trying to make it perfect before implementation will assign this initiative to a premature grave.