“When you are recruiting a new police officer, you have to determine their suitability, reliability, honesty, and integrity”

It sometimes comes as a surprise when people find out that EUPOL COPPS, as an EU Mission, has a contingent of Canadian experts. Superintendent Karen Ziezold is one of those Canadian colleagues seconded by the Canadian authorities as the result of an agreement with the EU, who strengthen EUPOL COPPS’s ability to provide a wide range of different perspectives to our Palestinian counterparts.

Before joining EUPOL COPPS, she was the Officer in Charge of Career Development and Resourcing at the National Headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), managing a unit of over 135 employees. She has over 34 years of experience in the police, of which 15 have been spent on HR issues. Within EUPOL COPPS, she is the Senior Police Adviser supporting the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP) with institutional development in the area of human resources (HR).

“Sound HR policies and practices are the foundation of most organisations,” Ziezold says. “It is very important to have processes and proper screening in place for recruiting, staffing, and promotions to help build a diverse workforce that will be able to successfully serve and protect the community. This will help build trust, both within the organisation and with the public”.

The PCP’s management has identified a number of areas where international experts might be able to provide support to identify and implement improvements in the area of HR management. The overall objective is to create a police structure where recruitment, performance evaluations and promotions are more transparent and objective.

Ensuring fairness in career progression is a challenge in most countries, and Ziezold acknowledges that Canada is no different. “We adjusted our promotional process many years ago to make it a more fair and transparent process, but there was a time where you might have had more of an advantage if you got along well with your manager, knew the right people to talk to, and possibly, going back a couple of decades, you could even have had a slight advantage if you were on the hockey team with your boss,” she says with a wry smile.

“It is so much better for the organisation if you have the right people in positions who possess the knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics to perform the job. This helps earn the trust respect of their peers and of the people they are leading,” the Canadian expert continues. “It is hard to follow a leader that you don’t respect”.

In order to help make sure that the right people are selected for various positions, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has a Competency Dictionary which defines the expected behaviours and skills that police officers need to demonstrate in different positions. This is commonly referred to as Competency Based Management and is an HR tool that helps with job success, and improves service delivery.

As well as possessing the required skills and behaviours, police officers are expected to demonstrate the RCMP core values. Ziezold gives an example of how this works when recruiting new police officers. “When you are recruiting a new police officer, it’s not enough to just check whether he or she has a criminal record. You also have to determine their suitability, reliability, honesty, and integrity. Are they the right fit for this type of work? The RCMP has a multi-step intense screening process for applicants, which includes a very detailed questionnaire focusing on almost every aspect of a person’s life to know if there were actions or behaviours in the past that would prevent them from becoming police officers”.

“Once a person becomes a police officer, they need to continue to demonstrate that they have the necessary competencies to perform the job they are selected for by achieving certain levels of competencies such as meeting client needs, flexibility, problem solving, and teamwork. For each stage in your police career with Canada’s national police force, there is an exam, which you must pass before being considered for a promotion. Your knowledge, skills and abilities will be continually evaluated. The promotion process was designed to be as fair and transparent as possible, and open to the people who are deserving and have the right performance and are the right fit”.

The senior Canadian expert acknowledges that changes take time and that no process is perfect. But she also has seen enormous improvements in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police over the more than three decades she has been a serving police officer, and believes that whatever the obstacles, changes are possible when there is the will to make them. Her main Palestinian interlocutor, Brigadier Yassar Al-Fahoum, who is in charge of HR issues within the PCP has expressed his willingness and desire to modernise the policies and processes within his own organisation. He is very interested in how other highly respected police services operate. “I hope while I’m working with Brigadier Al-Fahoum and the PCP, I will be able contribute to positive and lasting changes” says Ziezold.