The Aurors are supposed to be the elite. The creme de la creme. The best of the best. The Ministry's finest fighting forces. Their answer to MI5. Professor McGonagall outlines the high grades which were required and the rigorous recruitment process that's involved.
"Well, I thought of, maybe, being an Auror," Harry mumbled.
"You'd need top grades for that," said Professor McGonagall, extracting a small, dark leaflet from under the mass on her desk and opening it. "They ask for a minimum of five N.E.W.T.s, and nothing under 'Exceeds Expectations' grade, I see. Then you would be required to undergo a stringent series of character and aptitude tests at the Auror office. It's a difficult career path, Potter, they only take the best. In fact, I don't think anybody has been taken on in the last three years."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 29, Careers Advice).
One of the elite wizards who made the grade was Dawlish. He excelled academically and became an Auror - but was still taken down by Dumbledore when they fought in the Headmaster's study at Hogwarts...
"Don't be silly, Dawlish," said Dumbledore kindly. "I'm sure you are an excellent Auror - I seem to remember that you achieved 'Outstanding' in all your N.E.W.T.s - but if you attempt to - er - bring me in by force, I will have to hurt you."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 27, The Centaur and the Sneak).
...and again a few months later...
"[Scrimgeour] has even attempted to have me followed. Amusing, really. He set Dawlish to tail me. It wasn't kind. I have already been forced to jinx Dawlish once; I did it again with the greatest regret."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17, A Sluggish Memory).
Now there's no shame in getting owned twice by Albus Dumbledore. He was probably the most powerful wizard in history. Even Lord Voldemort couldn't overpower him. Yet, by the time of Deathly Hallows, Dawlish is being defeated by far less intimidating adversaries than Albus Dumbledore. He's Confunded by the Order of the Phoenix and made to lay a false trail of information to the Death Eaters.
"Dawlish, the Auror, let slip that Potter will not be moved until the thirtieth, the night before the boy turns seventeen."
Snape was smiling.
"My source told me that there are plans to lay a false trail; this must be it. No doubt a Confundus Charm has been placed upon Dawlish. It would not be the first time, he is known to be susceptible."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1, The Dark Lord Ascending).
Now Dawlish is getting hoodwinked by a simple Confundus Charm. Even more embarrassingly, this situation is known to have happened before. Dawlish is starting to sound less like an elite spy, and more like a liability. Note that, at this point, Dawlish is definitely still working in the Auror's office.
And that's not all. Next we hear that Dawlish has been overcome in a fight with an unarmed wizard.
"I've got to say, Dirk, I'm surprised to run into you. Pleased, but surprised. Word was you'd been caught."
"I was," said Dirk. "I was halfway to Azkaban when I made a break for it, Stunned Dawlish and nicked his broom. It was easier than you'd think; I don't think he's quite right at the moment. Might be Confunded. If so, I'd like to shake the hand of the witch or wizard who did it, probably saved my life."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 15, The Goblin's Revenge).
Clearly Dawlish is struggling to do his job at this point. He's still feeling the after-effects of the Confundus Charm and consequently is confused, disorientated and weak. Hardly qualities you want from a crack Auror. Here he's only delegated a very simple task: prisoner transport. This is routine work, especially for someone as intelligent and accomplished as Dawlish. Yet he is overcome by an unarmed prisoner, Stunned and left for dead at the side of the road. This is an utter humiliation.
It wasn't an isolated incident, either. He also gets his butt handed to him by Neville's Gran.
"Thing was," he faced them, and Harry was astonished to see that he was grinning, "they bit off a bit more than they could chew with Gran. Little old witch living alone, they probably thought they didn't need to send anyone particularly powerful. Anyway," Neville laughed, "Dawlish is still in St Mungo's and Gran's on the run."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 29, The Lost Diadem).
Now I don't know what kind of supervision, discipline and oversight the Ministry of Magic operated in relation to their staff. But surely Dawlish should have been removed as an Auror after all his missteps? Or at least given some kind of leave of absence? He gets beaten on five separate occasions, sometimes in the most humiliating of circumstances. Where an employee is underperforming so badly over such a prolonged period of time that would seem to represent a failure to intervene on the part of the management. Dawlish was surely doing badly enough to be fired, or at least demoted or removed from active duty.
Why was he permitted to remain an Auror given his woeful incompetence?