A “culture of fear” has left gardai unwilling to take decisions and promoted a “cover your back” mentality across the organisation, a major review said.
The rank and file could not speak up about concerns over worries about repercussions, the Cultural Audit said.
Many believed it would be futile to raise issues, a survey by independent consultants found.
Senior Gardai said additional protected disclosure managers had been appointed and noted the strong belief that policing powers were used appropriately and that the force acted with honesty and integrity.
The report said: “It is also felt that people are only held to account at lower levels which has resulted in a culture of fear and unwillingness to take decisions.
“This has impacted the quality and efficiency of policing but it exists due to a ‘cover your back’ mentality across the organisation.”
It raised concern about the impact of speaking up.
“It is apparent that there is a climate where people believe that senior management don’t encourage open communication or two-way feedback.”
The Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle is investigating matters first raised by Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe which have reached the highest levels of the force and Government.
He voiced concerns about malpractice and exposed the penalty points controversy, claiming penalties were quashed by senior gardai for reasons of nepotism or favouritism.
The PwC report said: “The perception or the real lack of meritocracy is the greatest area of divergence between the more junior and senior ranks/grades.
“There are strong perceptions of favouritism and nepotism.
“Real or not, this view has created disillusionment and resentment across the organisation.”
It said the promotions system and how it was conducted needed to be reviewed and changed.
Researchers found a view among gardai that senior leadership reacted to external influences at the expense of the organisation – they did not “stand up” sufficiently for it nor push back against unrealistic or unachievable demands.
Significant shortcomings in front line supervision were articulated.
“We would recommend that the number of sergeants and their coverage across all the units and shifts be looked at as a matter of priority.
“We recognise that this may have financial considerations and may require the support of oversight bodies and/or the government.”
Acting Commissioner Donall O’Cualain said a move was under way to fill sergeant positions by the end of the summer and inspector roles by the end of the year.
He added: “We are seeking a change in the statutory regulations governing promotions to bring increased transparency to the promotions process under our control and bring it in line with the promotions process undertaken by the Policing Authority for senior ranks.”