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Friday 29 August 2014

Garda chiefs reject 'useless Segway Patrol' plea

Jim Cusack

Published 18/05/2014 | 02:30

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COMICAL: Garda David Campbell patrols Dublin’s Grafton Street on one of the Segways. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

RANK-and-file gardai have urged their bosses to ditch the 'Segway Patrol', branding the two-wheel scooters as a "useless gimmick". But their pleas fell on deaf ears after Garda chiefs turned down an offer by a Dublin city business association to buy patrol bicycles for gardai – and instead asked for more Segways.

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Dublin City Business Improvement District has donated two of the €6,000 scooters, which are being decorated with Garda logos, blue flashing lights and high visibility paint. CEO Richard Guiney said the group initially offered to buy mountain bikes for gardai as "for operational use we felt bikes would be much better for getting from A to B, but they told us no – they wanted two Segways".

He told the Sunday Independent: "Our initial instinct was that bicycles would be much more useful. The Segway costs around €6,000 and you could supply a bike and equipment for €750-€800. We felt the bikes would be better but we were told management wanted the Segways so we bought them. We did prefer bikes, but there you go."

This view was shared by gardai in Dublin, some of whom reacted with dismay when they learned of their new 'gift'. Officers insist the upright scooters are useless for crime prevention and want them to be replaced with bicycles. Gardai also complained that members of the 'Segway Patrol' are regularly ridiculed by members of the public they are trying to police. One source told the Sunday Independent: "The guards who have to use them are embarrassed. They are slagged regularly and no one knows what the point of them is."

The first Garda Segways were launched amid a fanfare of publicity in December 2012 and deployed mainly around the Grafton Street pedestrian area in the city. The launch was attended by Dublin City Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey, who insisted Segways would help gardai monitor areas "not readily accessible to other vehicles".

It was also claimed the scooters would be useful in improving garda "visibility", but gardai last week derided them as "totally useless", "a gimmick" and "an embarrassment". They say the Segways cannot be driven up steps or pavements, and if a garda on duty spots a crime the scooters cannot be used in pursuit. Gardai have to abandon the Segways, lock them and then pursue suspects on foot.

Segways are driven by electric motors and have a top speed of 12.5 mph (20.1kmh), so are slower than a bicycle. Gardai say bicycle patrols have proven to be far more effective and patrol officers in city stations regularly appeal for more bikes, rather than the comical-looking Segways.

Tom Coffey, the CEO of Dublin Business Association who provided the first two Segways to the force, said he hoped the vehicles would maximise the "effectiveness, mobility and visibility" of gardai on the city's streets.

"They are already used for policing in over 300 cities worldwide," he said, adding that the pilot project could be rolled out in other urban centres if it proved to be a success. But no other Garda divisions are known to have shown any interest in the scooters. After the launch of the first two scooters in 2012 it emerged that the gardai had to get a special dispensation from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to allow them to be used on public roads and pavements.

Under existing legislation, Segways are classified as mechanically propelled vehicles and it is illegal for the rest of the public to use them on public footpaths.

Sunday Independent

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