Dr. Shawna Coxon is the Deputy Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, Ireland's National Police. Shawna served with the Toronto Police Service, where she served for 26 years and rose to the rank of Deputy Chief where she led three commands at different times.
Most recently, she was in charge of the Human Resources Command, which is comprised of three functions: People and Culture, Corporate Risk Management and the Hearings Office. This Command is responsible for driving the progressive hiring, training, discipline and development of Service members. Prior to that, she led the Priority Response Command followed by the Communities and Neighbourhoods Command. There she oversaw the reactive and proactive policing response of all 16 police divisions in the City of Toronto. These two commands include all front-line policing, community and neighbourhood policing, as well as the investigation functions at Toronto’s police divisions. They also include the Service’s Operations Centre, 911 Communications, Traffic Services, the Parking Enforcement Unit and Court Services.
Deputy Coxon has had a diverse career working in many areas of policing including child abuse, sex crimes, human rights, professional standards, community response, vice, intelligence and national security. She was a proud member of the Transformational Task Force and is also well known for having implemented Service’s inaugural Computer Cyber Crime (C3) Section. She was chosen for both of these initiatives because she has led numerous enterprise-wide innovation projects.
Shawna Coxon has a B.A.(Hons) in Psychology, an M.A. in Criminology, and a Ph.D. in Law. from the University of Leicester in the UK. She has published and lectured extensively around the world. She has been an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph-Humber for fourteen years.
As Depuy Commissioner for the Garda, Shawna is responsible for Governance, Transformation, and Strategic Planning.
[00:00:02.750] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The CopDoc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing communities, academia, and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:00:32.410] - Steve Morreale
Well, hello, everybody. Another episode of The CopDoc Podcast. I'm Steve Morreale. I'm talking to you from Boston, and I have the distinct pleasure and honor of talking to a colleague on the other side of the pond. It is Shauna Coxon, deputy Commissioner for Garda, An Garda Siochana and she is a Toronto officer and a high-ranking officer who made the leap and jumped across the pond to serve in one of the top three positions in the Garden. So good morning, Shaunna.
[00:00:59.550] - Shawna Coxon
Good morning. It's actually good afternoon here. So I'll say good afternoon for my day.
[00:01:02.820] - Steve Morreale
Okay. All right. Well, I'm sure the sun is up over there, and I said it's snowing here, so it's so good to talk with you. And I think we've got so much that we can learn from you and your experience as you left Canada and went to Ireland to help in the improvement of a national police force. But what I'd like you to do, please, is introduce yourself and where you started your trajectory out of Toronto and how you ended up on the other side.
[00:01:29.800] - Shawna Coxon
Well, I started in Toronto as a frontline police officer, as we all do, and that was back in 1997. I hit the road. I still remember that feeling of being new and being in one of the busiest divisions in Canada. I can tell you that first day on the job is still in my mind like it was just yesterday. I went to an assist PC, and we made three arrests, separate arrests on different calls. It was just a crazy day, and I did a ton of different things in Toronto. I was very lucky because there was a bit of a demographic shift. I was hired right after a six-year hiring moratorium. So it gave tremendous opportunities for me to do a ton of different pieces of work, everything from doing undercover vice kind of work, buying drugs and working in child abuse, and then eventually working in sexual assault. So I went from the frontline piece to a bit of plainclothes work to investigative work. And then I eventually jumped up through the ranks. And so I've done. If you look at my resume, it's actually hard to kind of do as an intro, but I'm really fortunate because I got to do a ton of different things working in everything from professional standards to intelligence and national security work.
[00:02:35.260] - Shawna Coxon
I think I'm probably best known for implementing our cybercrime team. We were the second in Canada by about two weeks. And I love that space of doing things where there's no road map and you have to figure it out from ground zero. And so not too long after that, I was placed on a task force in Toronto to modernize police service. So really like a whiteboard police guy, exercise with internal experts and experts from other fields who had all been involved in very large transformation kind of work. And not long after that, I became the deputy in charge of a priority response. So frontline policing, and at that rank I worked in two other areas after that. So we kind of switched around as deputies at different points in time. And then last April, I made the move to Ireland where I'm now the deputy Commissioner in charge of governance, strategy and performance for An Garda Siochana.
[00:03:23.750] - Steve Morreale
What a shift. So let me ask you a question. Going back to your time in Toronto in 1987 and I started in policing in 1973 or 4. You had to be one of the first or certainly a minority on a police department as a woman. Is that a fair statement?
[00:03:39.160] - Shawna Coxon
Yes, it is.
[00:03:39.840] - Steve Morreale
So you went through some drudgery, I'm sure, and trying to understand your place and try to make your way through a career which was originally dominated by all males. And yet we've seen a change. So talk a little bit about your experience and how you kept your head about you. And I know it's changed since then, but just talk a little bit about that.
[00:04:00.170] - Shawna Coxon
It's changed and it hasn't. I remember I arrived at 14 Division, which is still to the state of one of the busiest police stations in Canada, and we didn't have anyone above the rank of Constable in the entire station. It's a station of about 300 people who is a woman, so nobody above the rank of Constable. So one of the challenges is you're trying to figure out who you are, what is your style of policing, what does that look like? And there were almost no women even at the Constable level and no one above that. And so it was a challenge to figure out who am I? How do I police, what does that look like? For me, it was difficult and I'm mindful now in my role and I have been all the way along that it's important to have these discussions because everybody's looking for who do I want to be like different role models out there? There's certainly a lot of negative role models out there, but I was really fortunate because I was on a shift where at times it was challenging, but I certainly had a number of people I got along with really well.
[00:04:49.590] - Shawna Coxon
I can tell you our shift would be an interesting academic study because almost everyone on our platoon back in those days went on to very successful positions in the service. And I think it's because we had a great group of people. We got along really well. We dealt with a lot of extremely difficult situations together and we just had some really good mentors along the way who developed all of us. And so things landed where they did in the future. None of us could have foreseen it at the time, though.
[00:05:13.130] - Steve Morreale
Well, isn't it interesting to you in all of your years in both places, that one of the things that seems to work is when you can focus a group of people on a mission, and that mission, as long as you can understand what that mission is in working towards the mission, it sort of coalesces people. Is that your experience?
[00:05:29.320] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, absolutely. That first summer that I worked, I remember distinctly, we were extremely short staffed, like extremely short staff. So an assist PC, as you know, is a 10-33. It was fairly common to have one per shift, so you would call for backup, and there was no one available, ever. And so at some point, things would get out of control on someone's call, and you would have to actually tell people on the radio call that you were on, I'm sorry, we'll have to come back and you would leave and then go and assist others on your shift and then come back to that original call. So we were exhausted a lot of the time. I can say that we didn't feel like we had a lot of support from management. And so, like I said, it was very difficult, but it created a special bond between us. And I think that's why people went on to be successful dealing with those difficult circumstances.
[00:06:10.030] - Steve Morreale
Have you ever been micromanaged?
[00:06:11.600] - Shawna Coxon
Have I ever been micromanaged?
[00:06:12.880] - Shawna Coxon
[00:06:13.700] - Steve Morreale
Do you like it?
[00:06:14.400] - Shawna Coxon
Not at all.
[00:06:15.380] - Shawna Coxon
So as you rose through the ranks, did you find yourself and certainly I've had that experience. Have you find yourself moving towards micromanagement for whatever reason, and putting the brakes on saying, Wait a minute, I didn't like it, I don't want to do it myself.
[00:06:27.180] - Shawna Coxon
Yes, I'm a very big believer that we can work on a low trust model or a high trust model. So I give people a lot of trust until they give me a reason not to. So if you've ever been micromanaged by me and there's only a couple of people out there who have it's because you didn't deliver on your work or because you lied and said that you were somewhere where you weren't or something, where then I found myself asking to check up on you, and nobody likes it. But the vast majority of people who have worked for me, with me that I've worked for are people of high caliber who certainly don't need to be micromanaged. I actually think it reduces morale. It reduces production because people know they're not being trusted. They know. And really, then what are you delivering? You can't be creative, you can't be open minded. It just kills all of those great things.
[00:07:07.730] - Steve Morreale
So what made you throw your hat in the ring to go completely different country? What made you do that.
[00:07:13.730] - Shawna Coxon
Well, probably Covid would be the answer to that. And I say that because I really loved working on the modernization project in Toronto, and I learned a lot through that experience. And much of it went really well and some of it did not. And I learned a lot and I loved what Ireland was doing. Certainly their transformation is bigger than Toronto's, but the philosophy behind it, the values, the layout, even the kinds of things that are being focused on, the strategic levers, if you will. It's a very similar blueprint is the simplest way to say it. And so I had already been looking at what Ireland was doing and thought it was really great. I loved that there was buy in from different federal departments who have to come together. And I felt that that would be a stronger case for getting things done. We were lacking that in Toronto, and it led to a lot of problems, and that was some of the blocks and things that we couldn't get done. So I thought this is an opportunity to go and see how it's done a little bit differently, particularly in areas where I felt it would matter and make a difference.
[00:08:08.040] - Shawna Coxon
And so I wouldn't have done it if COVID hadn't happened. But I think, like most people, I just reevaluated everything in my life during that time frame. And it just seemed like, well, I'm seeing everyone on video anyway. What difference does it make if I'm in Toronto or if I'm in another country? And what a tremendous opportunity. I still remember somebody who I didn't know very well had heard that the job was up and posted and had suggested I put in. I said, oh, I can't go. And he gave me grief for it. He said, why wouldn't you if you got it? What a tremendous opportunity, and why would you dismiss it? And really, that conversation bothered me. When people say things and it hits your heart. And I went home irritated because a lot of times when things hit your heart, it's not a loving feeling. It's an annoying
[00:08:47.140] - Steve Morreale
[00:08:49.030] - Shawna Coxon
It's a great way to say it. Yeah. I went home very annoyed and spent a lot of time thinking about what you had to say, because he was right. So I'm so glad that I did it. It's been such an amazing experience.
[00:08:57.300] - Shawna Coxon
I'm so fortunate.
[00:08:58.120] - Steve Morreale
So we're talking to Shawna Coxon, and she's the Deputy Commissioner in the Garda. It's An Garda Siochana in Ireland, and she is a former Toronto police deputy chief, deputy chief even bigger. So a couple of things that you were saying and I'm thinking is what drew you to even read or know about that blueprint, that report on the future of policing in Ireland? Was it a researcher in you to say, well, what are other people doing? What caused you to look in that in that area?
[00:09:23.680] - Shawna Coxon
I'm always curious about what other police services are doing, always I'm always interested in who's innovating how and where. I think it's really important that we always look outside what we're doing individually because you can learn so much from what others are doing, often trying to replicate each other's work without even knowing it right. Because we all see the same challenges and the same opportunities. So it just so happened that the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland happened about a year after ours in Toronto. So I was very interested in that particular space in terms of just police reform. It was before all the prize for reform that have happened for the internationally since. So to think that we were a little bit ahead of it and that Ireland was right on our heels to me, showed that the things that were going on were bigger than just what we were seeing in Toronto. I always knew and felt that in my heart. But to see another agency actually tackle it, take it on, and then come up with a blueprint that was so similar was fascinating to me.
[00:10:14.210] - Steve Morreale
Well, as I think of Toronto and certainly where you are in Dublin, I think of Toronto. I see that as the New York, if you will. Vancouver would argue, but the New York of Canada, it's a very busy city. It's a very diverse city, and it's the center for so many things. And so you were very lucky to be there. Talk about the transition. What do you see? Similar and dissimilar in Ireland, but clearly in the capital city of Dublin.
[00:10:37.730] - Shawna Coxon
Toronto is a huge city. I don't think people realize we're just a little bit bigger than Chicago. So the traffic is insane. It's a hustle and bustle and busy life is extremely busy. It's very North American in that you work all the time. The kind of hours I was working for deputy and trial police was just extraordinary, particularly pre-covid. So when I moved to Ireland, I thought that leasing would be quite different, especially because you go from one police agency to another. And I immediately fixated on the technical details, as I think any cop was. How is the law different? How is the law different in terms of criminal offenses? How is it different with respect to how we're governed as a police agency? What's that going to look like? How does national security work relative to what I'm accustomed to, which is a mixed model approach from a large city working with the federal government on that. So those are the kinds of things I focused on when I arrived here. I was really surprised to find that policing is very similar. Even talk about all the things I just mentioned, they are quite similar.
[00:11:32.320] - Shawna Coxon
They're not terribly different. There are things that are nuanced that you have to become adjusted to, but they are small details really in the large scheme of things. What is so different that I didn't expect, actually, is that life is quite different here. So I came from a very North American lifestyle, very busy all the time. And without realizing it, I think I took a lot of pride in being busy. I thought that was I'm busy and I'm doing really well.
[00:11:53.300] - Steve Morreale
That's an indicator of success in some ways.
[00:11:56.130] - Shawna Coxon
It is, and it's cultural because I never really thought about it. It's just something I assumed to be true. I moved here, and one of the things I really love about Ireland is it's not as busy. People value life more than work. People very much value their family, their time off. Life is slower. Go to a store to buy something, you're going to wait in line a lot longer than I did back home. And so I found myself extremely frustrated when I first moved here because everything takes so long. Everything is still a system that is paper based in a lot of ways, like the federal government. I'm not even talking about Agar Chicano. I'm talking about just trying to get your utility bill and signing up for television and Internet and that kind of thing. Going to the store and waiting forever for someone to come and serve you. And it's just different. And it's actually better. It required me to shift and we had to slow down and think about, think about what does that mean and who have I become as a person who's on this treadmill? And it's definitely better here. And I have tremendous respect for how people live in Ireland.
[00:12:56.750] - Steve Morreale
Interesting, because I've spent a good number of weeks there, months there in Ireland. And you're right, service is a little bit slower. But one of the reasons is in my mind and your experience is because people are relating to one another. It's not like next, next, next. So how are you? It's that kind of stuff. So they're having conversations. You're saying, hey, I got to pay and I got to get home. It causes you to slow down. You've got a big job now, and you can't necessarily slow down because I think as you look at governance and you look at strategic planning and you look at transformation, there's a timeline. What I really want to ask you is tell me about the meetings and the difference in the meetings and whether there is any difference in how these meetings are run and how you're collecting information to try to figure out how to improve things. Talk about those differences.
[00:13:40.390] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, I think the difference, though, mirrors what I'm talking about with life. There is a deep desire for people to know each other and to relate. So meetings are a little bit slower. People spend time talking at the beginning of the meeting. How are you? How's your family? This kind of thing? I actually would have thought when I moved here in an arrogant North American kind of way that doing things faster and getting right to the point was somehow more efficient. I'm not at all convinced of that now that I live here because things seem a bit slower, but the outcome is still happening. You definitely have to keep your eye on things and where things are with respect to projects, like where the different pieces are, all of those actions that go into every project which flow up to programs. So you're still keeping an eye on all of those things, but it's not happening in such a frantic way. And I actually think that that little bit of a difference in terms of relationship, in terms of really thinking about things before they occurred. The guards spend a lot more time planning than they do executing in Toronto.
[00:14:34.330] - Shawna Coxon
We executed before we planned. I'm not saying we didn't plan well.
[00:14:38.060] - Steve Morreale
That's the old ready, aim shoot approach.
[00:14:40.870] - Shawna Coxon
I don't want to make it sound like we didn't plan at all. Of course we did. But the amount of time that's spent landing here, the optimal way of doing it, is probably somewhere in the middle. Right. So it's probably good that I'm here in the sense that I'm trying to be a little less planning. Let's go. Let's go. In Toronto. I should have slowed down because it can lead to pretty big problems in the middle of things if there are key pieces you haven't thought about. So again, it's probably in the middle. Yeah. I think all of that goes back to just relationships and wanting to have that kind of informal guessing on each other piece. The other thing that I'll tell you that I think is very different here that I appreciate greatly is just what I'm going to call professionalism. People are very well educated in the guards. I'm shocked at the number of people who work with me who have graduate degrees. There is a genuine deference, which I have to be careful about because I really like when people disagree with me. I value that, and it's less likely to occur here.
[00:15:29.920] - Shawna Coxon
But there is always a very respectful, thoughtful way of doing business in Toronto. People were like, let's get to the point. Let's go. So you just didn't have the same let's just sit and hear what so and so has to say, even though it's probably not going to go anywhere. Right. It might seem like an idea that we heard last week and already said no to, but if it's being brought up again, it's being brought up again for a reason. So let's hear that out. So that space, that valuing of relationship, I think, is powerful, and it operates in more of a professional landscape here than I saw in trouble.
[00:15:59.320] - Speaker 2
I remember sitting in one of the Garda stations, I think it was in truly. And it was interesting because I've been briefed by so many in your organization, and very often they want to sort of tell me and I'll sit there, I begin to ask questions because I do bring my North American let's get right to the point. I remember sitting in CAB, the Criminal Assets Bureau, and one of the big shots is telling me, basically, this is what we do. And I said, okay, but how do you do that? And they looked at me and said, you know what we're talking about. Yeah, I did it for a long time. I did. And everything changed. But I will tell you that my sense was that virtually everyone I'd say, everyone I have encountered at the higher ranks are an instant I see as professional, without question, much more than other agencies that I have dealt with. So you hit the nail on the head. You're living it. I just experienced a little bit. But you just said something about disagreeing. So let's talk about you showing up outsider that you are, and now you're in charge at a very high rank and you're in charge of meetings.
[00:16:58.210] - Steve Morreale
And we talked offline just before where I said, have you come through the ranks where you had top-down autocratic meetings?
[00:17:06.250] - Shawna Coxon
Yes, I have.
[00:17:07.170] - Steve Morreale
And how comfortable was that?
[00:17:08.630] - Shawna Coxon
Well, they're fast because you're just told what to do and then you get on with it.
[00:17:12.200] - Shawna Coxon
There's no room for discussion
[00:17:12.540] - Steve Morreale
Yes, you salute and go out and do it. Right. And go and do it right.
[00:17:14.930] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, I tried to see it as, okay, that's simple. At least it's simple. But nobody feels good in a meeting like that, I don't think.
[00:17:20.560] - Steve Morreale
Okay. So how did you modify your way as you grew up through the organization and rose in ranks and now you are running meetings? Do you find yourself just look for a book that I use an awful lot, Leading with Questions.
[00:17:35.830] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, I read that.
[00:17:35.830] - Steve Morreale
Do you find yourself that's a way that that's your style, to set the table, ask questions and get input, get others to participate in their thinking?
[00:17:44.400] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, it depends, right? It depends. The other thing that's so interesting is here, I like brainstorming sessions because it leaves room for that. And I've had a couple of people go, oh, that American thing. American. They don't really do brainstorming here as an exercise, if you will. So I have always tried to create space for people to disagree with me. It may seem strange, but the person in the room who disagrees with me is probably the person I value the most. I certainly have the most affinity for whoever that is. And my worry is always when people don't disagree with you at all, like you're probably in the wrong room or something is wrong and no one's telling you. So we were talking just before we started the podcast about what happens when someone doesn't agree and what does that look like? I'm actually always appreciative when someone does, provided that it's respectful because the part where you should be worried as a leader is when everyone's just giving up. They just don't say anything. They just think it's pointless. At least the person, even if they're angry, they're angry because they're passionate. Because they care.
[00:18:38.020] - Shawna Coxon
That's valuable. So here it's been challenging because it's relationship based and people are very deferential to rank here, extremely deferential to rank in a way that they were not in Toronto. And so I've tried to spend as much time as I can. And this has been really difficult because I haven't been in the room one on one with people individually. So I have tried to get to know people virtually one on one so that they can get to know me. Maybe you don't want to speak up in the meeting, but you think there's a problem, call me. We can have a separate offline discussion and just create that space where people can share what they think is wrong.
[00:19:08.990] - Shawna Coxon
Shawna, isn't it? What you're doing is trying to set expectations or reset expectations. Look, we're in this together, and I can only make decisions with the best of information. Is that a fair statement?
[00:19:19.900] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah. And I think both in Toronto and here, the feeling about headquarters from cops or guards on the ground is always and by the way, I felt this way, too, that headquarters is disconnected and doesn't understand what we're going through and what is it they're doing there now? When you're there in a leadership role, you're having to take into consideration so many different facets that people on the ground aren't going to see or appreciate, nor should they ever have to. They should just worry about what they have to do. That's my job to deal with these other matters. But you're never going to land in a place where everyone is happy, nor should you that something is probably wrong if that's the case. But if in every decision that you're making, you're thinking about, how does this affect the guard that's out there at two in the morning, there's no bosses around, you're out there on your own, and you have to do something, whatever that something is, is the decision we're making today making your life easier or harder? If it's making your life harder, because maybe you have to do more work, is it because it's for a better outcome?
[00:20:09.150] - Shawna Coxon
So, for example, I can think of changing forms where more information is required. Yeah, I get that that's more work, but it's going to solve more cases.
[00:20:15.880] - Shawna Coxon
Which should reduce your work
[00:20:17.360] - Steve Morreale
And create less questions, too. If you've asked the question, you don't have to do follow up. Right, good.
[00:20:22.730] - Shawna Coxon
Exactly. So some of that is a bit of a balance, and it's something that we bring up and talk about in meetings. But how does this make life easier for someone that's out there tonight? And so it's a challenge, but it's a constant discussion, as it should be.
[00:20:34.120] - Steve Morreale
So you just changed uniforms, which unto itself was pretty amazing because it's been years before they changed uniforms. What's the feeling of that response and reaction from headquarters in the field? Are you hearing it? I know it's just about to launch.
[00:20:48.050] - Shawna Coxon
So last week, by the way, it's so great that we're doing this podcast today. So thank you. But last week, of course, was the 100th year of the meeting that formed An Garda Siochana. So that was just last week. And so during last week, we launched the new uniform. But here's the thing about the uniform that matters to me that I think is so great, and it's a little bit lost in the press. The uniform was designed by those who will wear it, which has never been done in the history of the guards. So a committee was put together and we brought on board the unions and the associations. We went out to the field and I say we because it wasn't me personally. It was a team of people doing it, and they were working on it for four years. So I can tell you that the uniform that you see that's being launched has changed radically since it started because guards were like, this isn't high quality enough. This doesn't work in the rain. It's too dark. And what does that mean when we're out in an area where there's no light? So that kind of feedback was really critical.
[00:21:37.880] - Shawna Coxon
And so certainly there's always going to be people who aren't crazy about it. But the overall response has been positive. And I really do think it's because it was designed by Guards, for Guards, operational people.
[00:21:48.080] - Steve Morreale
I also think, Shawna, that was one of the things that was talked about in the report. And what I think that means to the guards, to the rank and file, is that finally somebody's listening and finally someone listened to us. And so that's a win for you, I would think.
[00:22:03.170] - Shawna Coxon
I hope so. I'm not sure how many actually realized that that was the process. So it was certainly included in part of the stories that went out. And I hope people appreciate it just because it's how things should work. I actually think that's how it should work. You're going to wear the uniform all day, right? I wear an admin uniform. I love the uniform, by the way. I wish I could wear it, but you should be comfortable in it. It shouldn't be about what others think it should be about. How does this help you do the best that you can do long shifts, out on foot, out on bikes, sometimes chasing people. Is this the kind of hot.
[00:22:31.190] - Steve Morreale
Cold rain I, know? I understand.
[00:22:34.150] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah. Hot, cold, light, dark. So people who do the work need to have a say and be a part of it.
[00:22:39.700] - Steve Morreale
There's a lesson underneath that. So we're talking with Deputy Commissioner Shawna Coxon for, An Garda Siochana, the Irish National Police, talking to her from Dublin today. And we've been talking about so many things. Shawna, one of the things you talked about was this idea of disagreeing and being willing to not just be yes men and yes women. And it came to mind. I'm actually going to interview the author of a couple of books. It's Mike Roberto. He's from Bryant University here in the States. And one of them is great leaders don't take yes for an answer. And that struck me, and I used that because it's really a business book, but it is. Please tell me where I may be wrong. Please disabuse me of my feelings and my thoughts on this subject with something, you know, so that we're not line sighted. So we consider unintended consequences and different perspectives really important. The other one I like that he wrote was know what you don't know. And I think you can appreciate that, that we have set lease up to be problem solvers in many ways, but really what we need is a whole bunch more of problem identifiers.
[00:23:40.290] - Steve Morreale
I don't know if you've ever read those books but think about what I just said. Not taking years for an answer and allowing for people to identify problems, to push them up so that you can work on them and fix them. What are your thoughts?
[00:23:51.740] - Shawna Coxon
I think it's hugely important, hugely important. We're about to embark on a senior leadership exercise that hasn't been done before. I'll have to let you know how it goes. But we're putting forward wicked problems, and we're leaving them to also decide whether those are sufficient or whether they have ones they want to add. And then they're going to work together across sectors in the organization to identify what they think should be done about them. And I'm hoping to create not only solutions that we can adopt, but also corporate knowledge. So if these are problems we go to tackle in the future, we have that knowledge and expertise from so many people across the organization at the senior leadership level trying to fill that gap of people feeling like they don't necessarily get to be involved in problem identification and solutions, but also our problems are wicked problems. They're multidimensional, they're complex. They go over the course of decades, and that's not going to change. So it's really important that we start to create a warehouse of knowledge to tackle the problems because it's really easy for a new leader to come in five years from now, let's say and go, yeah, no, I don't believe in that anymore.
[00:24:50.740] - Shawna Coxon
We're going to do something different. And you see all that work get put aside. And I've watched that happen. And so I think it's really important to create a space for people to come forward with their thoughts and ideas and to do so freely. Knowing that even if I think it's mad and I don't agree with it, then that gives me something to reflect on and my mind can be changed and it's valuable. But people have to really they have to experience that. They have to know you personally to know that that's where you're coming from. And the first brave person that does it is putting themselves at risk because there are leaders out there, and I've worked for some who say that. And then when you do it, they just want to hammer you. Right. So it's creating that safe space, if you will.
[00:25:24.880] - Steve Morreale
So how do you think police culture has changed over the years, and what are we doing to disabuse the public of what they might see as police that might be racist or abusive or brutal? I know that you and I don't necessarily agree with that, but certainly that's the narrative. So how do we DEA with that? How do we put the face of the police and what we're trying to do and what you just said, constantly looking to prioritize issues and problems and address them?
[00:25:50.800] - Shawna Coxon
I think it's such a huge question. I have no idea how we're going to really I'll say a few things, though. Police do not own their own narrative at all. And in fact, it's a space that we're not typically good at. We don't invest in it either. I have yet to see any police agency that I think has invested enough money and time into communications, both externally and internally, as well as kind of government and stakeholder relations. And I'm talking about it in a professional way and marketing, too.
[00:26:14.720] - Steve Morreale
We don't do a good job that go ahead,
[00:26:16.430] - Shawna Coxon
[00:26:16.900] - Shawna Coxon
No, you're right, you're right. And let's face it, papers and mainstream news outlets are going to always publish what is divisive or at least what is sensational, because that sells. So it's driven by a profit market. Now, I want to be really careful because it's not like I don't think problems exist. Problems do exist. And I think culture writ large in both North America and Europe is changing pretty radically. Our values are changing. The way we do business is changing the way we see the world is changing. Police are slow to change because they're highly bureaucratic. Interestingly enough, I've written about this lease on the road are not bureaucratic. If you have a problem that needs to be solved, they'll solve it quickly. They'll figure out who's in charge quickly, whether there's a Sergeant there or not, and they will get to it and they will get it done. It's only when you talk about the corporate issues that things seem to slow down into this space where it gets really difficult and highly bureaucratic to get things done. And so it's a challenge. Right. And there's issues with governance, I would say, because even though police are supposed to be non-political, a lot of the governance oversight agencies are political.
[00:27:13.780] - Shawna Coxon
They have to be because of structure of policing that creates its own unique challenges. And a lot of the facts that govern police are structured because it's known that people will make complaints against the police, sometimes try to get out of their own charges and that kind of thing. So certain protections are built in, but then they often become not fit for purposes, we'd say, where you can't get rid of people who have engaged in certain misconducts that should be gotten rid of. I'll give you an example that you see both in Canada as well as in Europe, and that is around sexual harassment. Certainly when you're sexually harassed in a private sector company, you're going to be walked out the door. And the threshold is fairly low for proving it. And yet there's been case after case in multiple countries where the same conduct occurs in policing and the person gets their job back. And even police leaders are at a loss to really manage that because the laws in place in terms of the acts that govern misconduct in policing don't allow for the person to be fired. So there's a lot of pieces in this that have to change a lot.
[00:28:09.630] - Shawna Coxon
And until they do, it's going to be very difficult to change the problematic aspects of police culture. And at the same time, police are not showcasing the good pieces of police culture because there's lots of those two conversations to have in such a short time.
[00:28:22.520] - Steve Morreale
So you've said something, a couple of things that I think are unusual to others who might be listening from all over the world where you're using the term corporate issues talk about that, because so many agencies do not see themselves as businesses or corporations. And plus in Ireland, you have a serious set of overseers. And so you've got to answer to a number of people. Plus, you're a singular agency, and I'd love to hear your perspective. Let me hit that question. When you were coming over to try to understand Garda and its organization and its table of organization where you've got intelligence and border and all of those kinds of things, it's almost a one-stop shopping. There is no FBI there or something similar. Talk about that and how you wrapped your head around this single agency and the multifaceted approaches that they have and units that they have.
[00:29:13.400] - Shawna Coxon
I think it's actually more simplified here than what I'm accustomed to, because I don't have to call different agencies and try to influence them in terms of what needs to be done because everybody is reporting up to the same executive team. We can make decisions that are strategic across various sectors, and it can get done. So I spent a lot more time getting to know people in different organizations in Canada. So that when I needed to get something done, when we had to come to the table to try to solve problems that we all trusted each other, knew each other. There was a relationship there already here. It is a bit more streamlined because it's one organization. And while that should be a benefit, and most of the time it is, I still think it's difficult to get things done at times. It just things take time. Right. What do you mean by that?
[00:29:56.080] - Shawna Coxon
I mean, they still report to through the Garda, but you've got these separate segments that don't necessarily - it's the need to know we don't have to talk to you. Same agency, those things that have to be wrestled with.
[00:30:07.380] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, there's definitely siloing.
[00:30:09.350] - Steve Morreale
You know, that's the term I meant to say.
[00:30:11.360] - Shawna Coxon
There's definitely siloing, and there was siloing in Toronto, too, but in Toronto, actually, I have to say we were so short staffed in Toronto, insanely short staffed that a lot of things we went to do, there just wasn't people to do it. So it cut down the silos because the only way to get work done, particularly on larger projects or initiatives, you had to borrow people from other areas. You had to. So people were forced to come to the table to get things done, otherwise it wouldn't happen. So I think that helped create innovation and make things a little more agile. It's a problem, of course, if some people don't want to come to the table, and there's definitely times where you see that some people will say they want to come to the table, but then they don't really, they just want to run it all themselves. But generally speaking, I think it was a bit more innovative and faster because of the lack of resources here. I find in Ireland that you do get siloing, for sure. They have more guards than I'm accustomed to having to get things done. And I think it's also pride of the work.
[00:31:06.410] - Shawna Coxon
So if you're in charge of an area, like you are in charge of that area and you want it to run well, and that's the perspective you see it from. You see it from what your needs are in your area, and you take great pride in that. And so it just has created challenges, but I think you see them in different agencies, but they manifest a little bit differently.
[00:31:21.460] - Steve Morreale
So you took the unusual step of seeking a PhD and really your Dr. Shawna Coxon, what brought you to do that? And what's the value that you see in understanding being more research-oriented than evidence-based, Shawna.
[00:31:37.590] - Shawna Coxon
So I was always interested in doing graduate work, and I joined the Toronto Police Service out of University because I was flat broke and really didn't have the opportunity to go to graduate school. And it bothered me. I wanted to I'm a big believer that you can have everything you want, but probably not all at once. So you have to figure out a way to do it and what takes precedence over something else at different times. And so I kept going. I was really lucky and got into the University of Toronto's Center of Criminology, which is known around the world, and in their master's degree program at that time, they only took 20 students a year. So I got into that and got to know some incredible people who are still in the criminology space around the world, really. And after that, I wanted to keep going and to do my PhD. And there were personal reasons that had nothing to do with work. In some ways, I was interested in being a pracademic in the sense that I felt there was great synergy between the academic world and policing, but that the lack of trust on both sides, because I saw it intimately on both sides was really taking away from those amazing opportunities for both parties, quite frankly.
[00:32:37.290] - Shawna Coxon
And so I was interested in that. I was interested in seeing how I could do it. And I worked for a boss at the time who was a micromanager, and I had a really hard time working for and thought, I don't know how long I'm going to stay in policing. I didn't want to leave.
[00:32:49.330] - Steve Morreale
But you were seeking a potential alternative, I suppose.
[00:32:51.920] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah. I just thought, you know what I thought I'll tell you very openly. I thought I always say what I think, regardless of who's in the room, I do it lightly. I do it respectfully. And I often don't think like people around me. At some point it's probably going to ice out my career, and I'm going to be one probably sooner than later. So I should probably have a plan B just in case. And the very thing that I thought would end my career is the thing that I think led me to eventually become a deputy. So it was surprising even for me. But it was one of the reasons I did my teaching.
[00:33:19.350] - Steve Morreale
And you've been teaching in the past.
[00:33:20.720] - Shawna Coxon
[00:33:21.790] - Steve Morreale
And so as you look at the Garda College, which is unusual onto itself. Right. They have a singular place to do all of that training. What do you see as the value?
[00:33:29.000] - Shawna Coxon
Well, I think there's a few pieces. It's singular. So you can track everything in one place. Everything is done in the same systematic way. So I look at Toronto. If you're a Toronto police officer, if you're a police officer anywhere in Ontario, you go to the Ontario Police College. But then almost every agency across the province sends you to their own College or their own kind of training when you're done so, Toronto officers will get training that is bespoke to them. And it may be different than people. For example, in Peel region, which is a very large city directly adjacent to Toronto, you wouldn't get that in Ireland at all. Everybody is getting the same training. The other thing that really impresses me is every single guard that graduates has a university degree. There's the affiliation with the University of Limerick, which is internationally renowned University. And you get people coming out with a degree. You don't get that in Toronto. In fact, I'm sort of surprised at how many meetings, even at a high level where you'll get police leaders going. I don't know why anybody would need education like I got here and I don't have it.
[00:34:27.180] - Shawna Coxon
And you think wow. But there's still a lot of police leaders out there that think that at the highest ranks. So here, at least everybody starts with that base level. And I think there's huge value in that.
[00:34:35.970] - Shawna Coxon
I think you're right. I think what you were talking about is that the education and the professionalism, it stems from that requirement, which is not in the United States. We can accept you with a high school or a GED, which just blows my mind, especially given everything we ask police to do. And it's growing mental health. I want to talk about that for a moment. One of the things we're trying to do I'm helping is to stand up a pilot where it would place clinicians with guards on calls. So I know that you're familiar with that talk about it from your perspective. And I know that Toronto was way ahead of the game with that.
[00:35:09.220] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, there's huge value in it. And I'm a big believer in the model. I'm also a big believer in the model where police don't go at all, if that's possible. And there's a number of different models that are out there and people are looking at is this the best model, or do we need to move to something else? Certainly Toronto is in that space where now they're saying, actually we don't want police to go at all. The challenge is that no matter what you do, practitioners will call police if there are concerns over violence. So police are always going to be involved in the space in some manner. So the mixed model is excellent because it just gives you different options. And the value isn't just in the practitioner that goes with police. It's also in that police can be excellent. And we all know different officers who are amazing at deescalating situations, having the knowledge and experience to deal with someone. And so the two together, I think is fantastic because that multi agency approach, not just with mental health but in other areas, can be so valuable, really can.
[00:36:00.380] - Steve Morreale
So work-life balance is important. I think we talk about the things that police see and they can unsee in the mental health and the wellness issues. But let's talk about work life balance with you hobbies.
[00:36:10.400] - Speaker 3
Okay. I have had a terrible work life balance. I'll be very open about this. In Toronto. I was not working out much at all, not paying attention to my food at all. Again, I had that very North American thing of believing that my busyness was value and spoke to success. So that's changed radically through COVID and through my moving Ireland. So I have a few hobbies now that I didn't have before. I started learning to surf last year, and I want to be careful to just learning to surf. I spend a lot more time face planting into the ocean than I do riding away. But it's fun. It's fun. And I got into Cross Fit during COVID and so I've been keeping that up love that. That keeps my head clear. And I find it just really helps when you're taking better care of yourself to think clearly. Your heart is clear about what you should be doing. And so I used to preach, but not practice, and now I'm practicing what I've told people all along, which is you have to take good care of yourself.
[00:37:03.450] - Steve Morreale
I may need a little of that preaching, so I appreciate that. So a couple of things. What are you working on now? What are the top three issues or areas you're working on now?
[00:37:13.260] - Shawna Coxon
Wow, just three. Okay, so we have the new community policing and safety bill, which will come out this year, which is going to change the structure of policing in Ireland. So this comes right out of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, and it's going to change the structure in terms of right now, we have the policing authority. There's going to be a different kind of board that the Commissioner will report to. The community policing model is going to change, and there's going to be integration with other agencies in the space of community well-being. And with that, the regulations around misconduct are being reviewed and will also be updated. So there's big pieces in that. We have to wait and see how that unfolds. I say that because it's nearing completion in terms of making its way through the Taoiseach, but it's just going to take time to see how we operationalize it.
[00:37:58.740] - Steve Morreale
I know what the Taoiseach is. Tell everybody else what that means really is.
[00:38:07.070] - Shawna Coxon
But with that, we're also changing the operating model. So the operating model here has been really jurisdictionally based in the past, as many of these agencies are, and it's moving to a more functional based system. So that means really the centralization of functions in the region. Again, it's kind of like we were just talking about with respect to Templemore, the police College here, the DEA, that things when they're centralized, that they're standardized. So we're looking at standardization of how things are done. And so that's moving out across the country. And that affects everything from how many police divisions there are to who does what function, who's responsible for what. So I'm really oversimplifying it for the sake of this podcast, but it's massive. It's probably the largest operational change the Guards have ever seen. So certainly that is huge. And that sits side by side. The new community safety and policing bill that I just mentioned, and it's just a number of other pieces, I'm going to say, that fall under police culture. That's a huge topic to talk about. But we have the new anticorruption unit here. We're bringing in drug testing this year for the first time in the Guards.
[00:39:08.710] - Shawna Coxon
And there's a review of the regulations. As I mentioned, those are all reactive things in terms of discipline. But for at least the drug testing. It's seen as more reactive, if you will. But there are a number of Proactive things. Like I've said, there's a ton of great work around positive aspects of police culture. So looking at things like I talked about the senior leadership exercise that we're doing, looking at things like how do we give people rewards in ways that they haven't had before? You'll see that the Commissioner has done a number of Scott medals ceremonies and giving out Scott medals over the last year, really looking at ways to build positive aspects in it, the way the uniform was designed. So all of that goes together. And I would say there are dozens and dozens of projects that fall under the broader umbrella of really trying to leverage the positive pieces that are out there already, making life better for the guards on the ground where we can, and then looking at how to deal with things when we have to deal with them reactively.
[00:39:57.310] - Shawna Coxon
So as we wind down, we're talking with Shauna Cox, and she's a deputy Commissioner in An Garda Siochana and Ireland. If you had the chance to sit down for a conversation with anyone famous, alive or dead, whose brain would you want to pick?
[00:40:10.220] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, I think Bucky Fuller. Yeah. Because he was such an amazing innovator that I love people who see the future for what's possible. Great changes in society have generally not come out of the public sector. The public sector is here to create stability, which is so important. Right. In the same way that we need to ensure that everybody is safe and well and healthy, and that's all really important. But those innovators who see the things that are possible and then actually go out and create it and make it happen, those people fascinate me. And I wish there were more of them in the public sector, I should say, because they're almost all in the private sector. But, yeah, I would love to know how his mind works and how he was able to see those things and then to act on them in a way that was bold and brave and to change society forever.
[00:40:54.660] - Steve Morreale
So it seems to me, too, as you say, that, that there are so many things. What always troubles me is that in the public sector, we have a tendency to almost be incestuous. We want to learn only from ourselves. We don't want to maybe that's not a good term incestuous, but in other words, we stick to ourselves and we learn from each other and not from the outside. And yet so many ideas in business, in health care come. And to me, it's people like you and your senior leadership staff that should be looking outside externally and then trying to adapt it to bring those ideas inside. Do you have a thought about that?
[00:41:29.070] - Shawna Coxon
Yeah, I do. I think you're absolutely right. I think it's an Echo Chamber when you're just looking at what you're doing, even if you're just looking at what other police agencies are doing, it's an Echo Chamber. It's very dangerous, actually, because you replicate the model that exists. And one of the benefits that I've had in being able to move to another country is it's changed my own mindset of things that I believe to be true, that are not true. And you only really see and understand that from the perspective of living it. So somebody said to me before I left Toronto, and I was really flattered by actually he said, you've been fascinated with startups and different innovative ways of doing business in the private sector forever and looking at ways to integrate that into changes in society. And what does that mean for changes in policing? You moving to another country and doing this when no one else has really done that before and everybody's going, wow, are you sure? And I was so sure. He said, it really is just taking the mindset that you have and applying it to your own life and your own career.
[00:42:20.490] - Shawna Coxon
And that's great because maybe other people will do it. It'll create a path to create opportunities for others where people will think about changing countries and looking at contributing, and that also will change culture on both sides.
[00:42:31.970] - Steve Morreale
Great. Well, listen, we have to wind down and say goodbye. I want to say it's been inspirational. It has been informative for sure. And I really appreciate you taking the time to talk, especially as busy as you are in this new position. And I look forward to meeting you. Hopefully we can see each other in April. When I come over, I want to give you the last word. Do you have hope in the future of policing?
[00:42:50.710] - Shawna Coxon
Absolutely. No matter what happens, there's always someone who's going to answer when you call nine, nine, nine or 911, depending on where you are. What gives me hope is looking at what frontline guards, frontline police officers in Toronto do every day. Because while we have these conversations, I guarantee you, when I get to Monday morning's operational briefing that I'm going to hear about a guard that jumped into a river to save someone's life, ran into a fire, resuscitated somebody who was overdosing, went out into a wooded area to find someone who was missing. We can have these conversations, but my hope for policing really lies in the thing that we all joined the job for, which is to be of service to others. And it's happening every day all over the world. And that's what gives me my inspiration. Always.
[00:43:32.140] - Steve Morreale
Terrific. Well, we've been very lucky to talk to Shawna Coxon in Ireland, sitting in Dublin today. She is the Deputy Commissioner for An Garda Siochana, and I very much appreciate it. So, everybody, thank you for listening. Look forward to another episode. And again, I want to thank you, Dr. Coxon, for being here.
[00:43:47.060] - Shawna Coxon
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it same here.
[00:43:51.830] - Outro
Thanks for listening to The CopdDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.