Public value and the COVID-19 response: Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford

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  • Published Date: 15 May 2020

Understanding public value and broader systems thinking have helped Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford remain calm under pressure throughout the state’s COVID-19 response.

These are just a couple of examples of how ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) and Executive Fellows Program (EFP) helped Tracy work through the COVID-19 pandemic with Queensland Police.

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on policing resources because we’ve had to very quickly respond to protect the community from something completely different to the crime, road trauma and public order issues that we would normally protect them from,” she said.

“The EMPA and EFP taught me that while my role is to maintain law and order, other agencies have other key imperatives to deliver on. The public value to be delivered is different for different organisations, so it is important we all work together, understand each other’s business, in order to look for the win-win outcomes that deliver on the public value we all seek to achieve.”

During the pandemic, Queensland Police has worked as part of a whole-of-government response to COVID-19, working with state, federal and local government agencies to manage the pandemic.

This has included working with the Australian Defence Force and volunteers to secure the state’s borders, and government agencies and industry to identify and support the safe delivery of freight, and essential services across borders.

“It’s systems thinking. Not just at a state level but also at a federal level, and a local government level; it’s about how we can all work together to keep the community safe. We get better outcomes by taking into account the diverse input of all stakeholders and seeking collaborative efforts that are more efficient and avoid siloed thinking.

“Both courses have assisted me in maintaining a sense of calmness during times of crisis. You learn that dealing with uncertainty is a normal part of doing business at executive ranks.

“Sure, you can sometimes get a bit overwhelmed when you get a complex urgent issue that you’ve got to lead through, but when you do something like an EMPA or an EFP, you very quickly realise that issues of complexity and uncertainty can regularly pop up across all areas of government. You are not on your own.

“There is a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be draw from across government colleagues to get advice or seek input. The EMPA and EFP help build that network for you, and help you to embrace these challenges and work through them.”

The catalyst for Tracy’s journey to Deputy Commissioner was rather inauspicious: a documentary about bugs and decomposing bodies.

“I always loved biology at high school and I had watched a documentary about the way the life cycle of bugs informed forensic experts on how long a person had been deceased,” Tracy said. “That was fascinating to me and I wanted to join the police force to get into forensics.” 

That youthful viewing of a documentary about a US body farm – where scientists and law enforcement agencies use donated cadavers to examine the impact of insects on human decomposition – eventually led Tracy Linford to a career in law enforcement.

Tracy joined Victoria Police at 19, working through a range of roles including detective, intelligence analyst, teaching at the police academy, special projects, state crime command, frontline policing and rural and metropolitan policing.

In 2006-2007, she undertook an ANZSOG Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA); which she described as a “light-bulb” moment in her career.

“It absolutely changed my thinking about my leadership and management style,” she said.

Tracy undertook her EMPA studies – a two-year, part-time qualification - as she transitioned in rank from inspector to superintendent. She said the EMPA gave her a valuable perspective on the way systems worked together.

“In every subject they would throw you a real-life policy issue from a government department. You start thinking far more broadly outside of your own organisation. It taught me to better empathise with people and the work of other agencies. Now whenever I’m making a decision about something, I always think about who else might be impacted.”

In the case of policing, a critical decision might also impact on youth justice, child safety, corrections or the justice departments.

“Now I might make contact with representatives from all of those agencies and look for a collaboration that delivers a win-win outcome, not just for my own agency but for these other agencies too.”

In 2015 she switched jurisdictions to Queensland and is now Deputy Commissioner, with executive responsibility for the Crime, Counter Terrorism and Specialist Operations portfolio. Her oversight includes expert specialist, investigative, technical and covert support, advice and direction in all areas of crime, counter-terrorism and specialist operations.

“I love my job, every day is interesting because invariably there are always new issues and challenges to work through, and the QPS are always working on many really interesting investigations. I’m lucky.”

In 2016, as an assistant commissioner with Queensland Police, Tracy returned to ANZSOG to complete the Executive Fellows Program (EFP). The EFP introduced Tracy to a cohort of similarly senior public employees, with whom she maintains contact. 

“I gained a lot of benefit from listening to the presenters and lecturers which included world-recognised academics and high-calibre practitioners from Australia and overseas,” she said.

She said both courses were underpinned by the ‘public value triangle’ and its three components: public value, the authorising environment and capability.

Tracy has loved her career but during 36 years of policing and despite her early ambition, has never worked in forensics.

“I do have forensics in my portfolio now and I spent a bit of time last week in our blood spatter room, where they conduct experiments to see how a person has died.

“It’s still really interesting and I don’t think a lot of people know we do it.”

Find out more about ANZSOG’s Foundation Programs

Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA)

A part-time postgraduate qualification developed and delivered by ANZSOG exclusively for high-performing public sector managers.

Executive Fellows Program (EFP)

A three-week program challenging senior public service executives working in the public domain to develop new leadership perspectives in a contemporary and highly interactive setting. 

Towards Strategic Leadership (TSL)

A unique two-week program that helps public service leaders develop the qualities needed to thrive in a senior executive role: a strategic outlook, political astuteness, personal resilience and the capacity to reflect and learn continuously.