Advice from a former Review Commissioner
The following article published in the Queensland Police Union Journal was written by Mr Barrie Ffrench, a Review Commissioner from 1993 to 2004. It provides some useful advice and information to anyone considering applying to have an appointment decision reviewed.
1. Establishing grounds for review
Ensure that you do have a case for review. First, get feedback from the panel convenor or another member of the panel if the convenor is not available. Proper feedback on the reasons for your non-appointment is your entitlement. In particular cases you may request that a summary of feedback be provided in writing. You may also request a copy of the successful officer’s application.
Once you have feedback, consider the points made. Perhaps there are ways in which you could have presented your case better. Was your application specific enough? If you were interviewed, could your answers have been more relevant? It may be a good idea to talk it over with a colleague who knows you well, or with a friend or partner. They may be able to point out things that you have not seen yourself. Most of us do not have the gift of seeing ourselves ‘as others see us’. A private talk with your supervising officer could be beneficial.
Decide on grounds of review
Assuming that you have decided to request a review an officer’s appointment, make sure that your reasons can stand up in a review situation. The two general grounds for review are that either the process of selection was defective or that you have demonstrated greater merit during the selection process that the panel failed to properly assess.
If you believe the process was defective, make sure that you have the facts right. Having perused section 16.2 of the Human Resource Management Manual, and identified what you consider to have been done incorrectly, check your opinion with someone who is in a good position to advise you. Your regional personnel officer is probably the best person in this regard.
Once you are sure of your grounds, draft a submission and ask someone to go through it with you to check for completeness. Make sure that your grounds are particularised and clearly expressed.
Instructions on how to submit an application to review are contained in the Human Resource Management Manual (s. 16.6.6). Ensure that your application is received by the Office of the Commissioner for Police Service Reviews before the due date specified in the Gazette. Note that a facsimile is sufficient and is the best way to ensure that your application is received before the due date specified in the Gazette.
If your application is to be on the grounds of merit, remember that it is not sufficient for you to state your opinion that you have considerable merit or more merit than the appointee. This means that you will need to examine the panel’s ratings of each criterion in the position description for each key selection criterion, and detail what matters in your favour have been overlooked or underrated by the panel in comparison with the appointee.
Do not expect the Review Commissioner to do your thinking for you. The Review Commissioner will certainly have examined all the evidence in the panel convenor’s report, but you will be expected to argue your case in your written submissions and at the review hearing.
2. Common mistakes and how to avoid them
Many officers make the mistake of either relying on their experiences to prove merit, or simply asserting their merit without producing evidence to demonstrate that assertion.
Experience is how we get the opportunity to demonstrate merit. It is not merit in itself. Some officers say something like this: ‘I have 23 years of service, the appointee has only 14, and therefore my merit generally, and my knowledge, in particular, must be greater.’
This is not logical. Some of us learn more from our experience than do others. And some of us with 23 years’ service have had one year’s experience 23 times.
Some officers refer to particular experiences as proof of merit. The following claims are made, with our comments in brackets:
- ‘I am adopt-a-cop at three schools.’ (What happened because of your being an adopt-a-cop? What results followed? What initiatives did you install? Unless there is hard evidence, all we can do is assume that you just turned up.)
- ‘I lecture at TAFE, and therefore I am a good communicator.’ (It does not follow! All of you will have heard poor lecturers at any educational institution. Show your effectiveness by means of things like repeated requests to return; commendations from students or the faculty; or a referee who can endorse your claim.)
- ‘I got first-class honours in management, and this makes me a good manager.’ (It doesn’t. It shows that you know the theory. You will need to provide evidence of how well you managed, or how you increased productivity or solved a problem. Again, a referee could confirm.)
- ‘I managed 20 people at that station.’ (How well did you manage them? What evidence can you provide?)
- ‘I am more multi-skilled than the appointee.’ (This may simply mean that you have had more jobs in a broader environment. You have to go further and show what you have done as a result of your broad experience.)
- ‘I have made more arrests than the appointee.’ (This does not necessarily mean that you are a more effective officer. You may have been in an area where it was inevitable that more arrests would be made. Perhaps the appointee had success in proactive policing that reduced either the opportunity to commit an offence, or reduced the intention to do so.)
Assertion is often used as if it proves actual merit. Statements like:
- ‘I am well known as an effective communicator’
- ‘I am an efficient manager’
- ‘My record in problem-solving is well known’
do not aid a proper assessment of merit, unless you can back them up with hard evidence.
Are your initiatives and achievements covered in the material you submitted with your application? Are there senior officers who can support your claims? They don’t have to be your current or past supervising officers. State their name and location, and a member of the panel can easily verify what you said.
A recommendation by a Review Commissioner to interfere with the original decision of the selection panel can only be made on hard evidence, and on nothing else. You can provide that evidence in your application for the position including reference to referees and through answers to interview questions. If you have provided such evidence, and if this has not been fully appreciated by the panel, then this is a valid ground for review which should be raised in your written submissions and at the review hearing.
3 The review hearing
Finally, a word or two about the review hearing itself. Make sure you arrive in good time. Be prepared to debate your merit as against that of the appointee. You are told that reviews are ‘non-adversarial’. This does not mean that you cannot argue your case, as long as you do so in a non-adversarial way. Treat the other officer as you would hope to be treated yourself, and you cannot go wrong. The emphasis should be on demonstrating how the selection panel erred in their decision, not the weaknesses of the appointee.
You will find that the actual review hearing is informal and as relaxed as possible. In the room will be the Commissioner for Police Service Reviews, the Secretary to the Review Commissioner and a representative of the Commissioner for the Police Service. This officer’s job is to assist the process by providing the Review Commissioner with the kind of information that an independent person would not have. The officer’s job is not to present a case for or against either party, but to ensure that all evidence is properly presented.
Upon conclusion of a review, the Review Commissioner is to make such recommendations to the Commissioner of the Police Service as considered appropriate. In promotion and transfer matters, the most common types of recommendations are to affirm the decision of the selection panel; to recommend a new panel be formed to make a fresh determination; or in more limited circumstances, to set aside the appointment and substitute the application for review.
Any recommendation made by the Review Commissioner is a recommendation only. The final decision will rest with the Commissioner of the Police Service who may accept or reject the recommendation. If it is rejected, the Commissioner is bound to provide his reasons to all parties.
In conclusion, it is important to point out that the review process is a very expensive one. In fairness to all, please make sure that you only review an appointment if you have good reason to do so. And if, for some reason, you have to withdraw your application, do so as soon as possible to avoid the extra cost involved in preparing for the review.