Soon after Drew Harris was appointed the new Commissioner of An Garda Síochána in June 2018, the Justice Minister of Ireland announced a four year plan to implement recommendations from the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. Numerous scandals had beset the Garda in recent years, and the Commission had determined that the Garda was in need not just of reformation, but total transformation if it were to become the world-class police force it aspired to be. Less than a year into the job, Harris was tasked with leading this transformation.
As is the case for many other leaders seeking to make change, Harris finds that culture is the largest stumbling block. According to a cultural audit conducted recently, the Garda has little trust in itself as an institution. “People identify with their immediate team, but not with the organization,” says Harris, and individuals feel they succeed “despite the limitations of the organization.” Officers have some reason to think this is true: On the local level, the Garda has plenty to be proud of, particularly its relationship with residents, whom report crimes at a far higher rate than in other European countries, but the lines of communication within the organization are failing. “Things just go up and down, up and down,” says Harris. “Our structure is too hierarchal and too top-heavy, and that has to change.”