Friday 24 October 2014

Mid-ranking officers fear reform may be too radical

Tom Brady Security Editor

Published 16/04/2014 | 02:30

MID-ranking gardai have warned the Government of the dangers of being too radical in overhauling their organisation.

They want changes to be introduced on a step-by-step basis rather than adopting the "big bang" theory.

And they cautioned against bringing in an outside figure to head up the force at the same time as setting up a police authority in one sweeping move.

The supervisors also heard a call yesterday for an independent figure like a judge to take permanent charge of dealing with whistleblowers in the force.

They said they did not accept the Government's proposal to turn the Garda Ombudsman Commission into the confidential recipient. They did not believe that a body which has the task of investigating complaints against gardai, should also be responsible for receiving information given in confidence about malpractice.

At the moment, a judge is acting as confidential recipient on a temporary basis. But the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) in Killarney was told this should become the permanent position rather than appointing the Ombudsman Commission.

Association vice president Antoinette Cunningham said they wanted to see malpractice exposed but a safe and robust system needed to be in place to protect the whistleblower.

"We don't want to see people exposed as whistleblowers suffering any retribution," she added.

She did not believe there was widespread malpractice or corruption in the force but in an organisation as big as the Garda Siochana there were bound to be issues that people might want to have exposed.

Deputy general secretary John Jacob said the Government should move with care and caution and introduce change incrementally rather than adopting a "big bang" approach.

He said the Government should be wary of "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" and the perceived image of a crisis in senior management at the moment did not mean that officers were not capable of doing their job properly.

Mr Jacob also called on TDs who had claimed in the Dail that the Garda was dysfunctional to withdraw their comments.

Mayo delegate Tony Lavery reckoned the whistleblower controversies had caused more reputational damage to the force than anything else since its foundation.

Irish Independent

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