Friday, September 21, 2007

Guest column: firing Clint Rickards - is it really that hard?

By Anita

The Police and the government are doing a pretty good job of obscuring the issues around Clint Rickards at the moment. They're talking about employment processes, privacy, natural justice and so on. Actually the case is a pretty simple one; he's on record with totally unacceptable behaviour, and employment processes can be resolved in a timely manner.

The real questions, and the ones I can't answer, are:

  1. why the Police are dragging the chain, and
  2. why the Minister isn't doing anything about it.

But first, back to the beginning

Should he really be fired? Are there really grounds for it?

Damned straight!

Let's recap for a moment:

Each of those individually is worth a dismissal in combination there's no question at all.

An interesting exercise is to work out what you'd have to do in your job to behave equally unacceptably (and equally publicly), and then decide whether you'd still have a job. So far every person I know who has worked that out is totally sure they'd be out of a job.

But don't they have to go through a process?

Damned straight! :)

But a good, robust, effective employment disciplinary process can (and should) be reasonably fast.

Rickards has been on suspension for three years and eight months (since the 2nd of February 2004). The last case against him completed seven months ago (on 1 March 2007). A competent, well run process should have resolved this months (if not years) ago. We're talking about totally unacceptable statements made on the public record from someone whose positions requires a high level of public confidence.

Again, ask yourself the question: if you behaved as unacceptably, how long would it take for you to be dismissed? How long could you possibly string it out for?

But he was found not guilty!

Yep. I'm not arguing that he should be fired for rape – there are a whole bunch of other things he should be fired for.

There's an interesting discussion to be had about the difference between proof-beyond-reasonable-doubt and balance-of-probabilities, and which should be used for employment cases. That is not, however, a discussion relevant to this case – the Police can get rid of him without going there.

So why are the Police taking so long?

I don't know, but I have some possible theories:

  1. Incompetence. Maybe they can't actually run an effective employment disciplinary process and Rickards' lawyers have them running round in circles.
  2. The old boys' club. Rickards is a senior police officer with senior mates: maybe they're trying to protect him and find a way out which saves some face for him.
  3. They just don't care. Maybe this isn't important to the Police hierarchy. It's clear that the sexual exploitation of young women wasn't important to them, maybe this doesn't rate either.
  4. Cowardice. Maybe they just don't have the guts. It's not easy to fire someone, definitely not if he's a mate, nor to admit to the world that they've been so wrong for so long.

My personal hunch is the first, they've designed an impossibly convoluted disciplinary process, and now we're wearing the consequences. Combine that with having to admit to having screwed that up as well... .

Why should the Minister get involved?

The Minister shouldn't get involved in the employment process., at least not directly. Ministers absolutely shouldn't be messing about with individual operational issues.

The Minister should, however, get involved in fixing the underlying process when an individual operational failing exposes a fundamental problem within the department – and this one does!

So what now?

Tell the Minister, tell the PM, tell your MP, tell the Police – tell them that this is their job, that it might be hard, it might be unpleasant, but this is their problem and the need to fix it now.

The Wellington Action Against Rape postcards are available from Indymedia if you want to print and mail them. We'll be out and about again in Wellington this weekend, so email me if you're keen to join in or extend the action beyond Wellington.