Talks of terror in Ireland? Focus should be on training patrol gardaí who are first to the scene
A lot has been uttered and written about whether the Garda force has the right training at the patrol level to respond to an Islamic extremist attack.
The simple truth is that like in London last week, it is likely to be an unarmed garda who will be the first responder to such an attack.
So what kind of training do they need, what can be done? The good news is, it's not complicated and can be done quickly.
Specialist units of the Garda such as the ERU and the regional armed response units have training in terms of confronting armed aggressors, but what kind of training or prep is being given to the most likely first responder, that is, the ordinary uniformed garda on patrol?
We all know the answer to that, none. However, especially in light of what has happened recently across the water at Westminster and the murder of PC Keith Palmer, more thought and resources need to be given to this.
As a matter of urgency, thought should be given to giving all patrol officers a short course in recognition of elements that may constitute what has been previously called 'Lone Wolf' terror attacks.
On receipt of this training officers should be able to make a quick assessment as to the nature of a violent incident they are called to and quickly ascertain whether it's terror-driven or not.
If it conforms to a terror-driven incident, then this should colour the officer's response, approach and how he/she calls in the incident.
Appropriate recognition and response training would ensure patrol gardaí can better protect their own lives and those of the general public by responding in a way not anticipated by the terrorist.
It will also prevent them from blundering into a situation of armed confrontation where the initiative is held by the terrorist and then they can make a quick, effective and informed estimate of what is happening so they are not blind to the evolving situation on the ground.
Such training needs would not be information-heavy, but rather would be based on bedding-in some new key procedural approaches for both the patrol garda and their first-line supervisors.
The most important aspect of this would be for officers to experience these procedures in a short and simple exercise that would allow the trained gardaí to implement this again at their own station level and adapt according to their own station or district needs and realities.
In addition, this kind of training should not be limited to our unarmed patrol gardaí; it should also be implemented among our emergency paramedics and fire personnel.
They will all be among the first responders and have the right to be equipped with the knowledge and skill to better protect themselves and the general public.
Regarding equipment, it should become a norm that standard Garda cars have helmets and flak jackets that can protect the officers when responding to such an event.
Our emergency medical responders should have access to such equipment as they may find themselves carrying out life-saving tasks while the area is still volatile.
Declan Power is an independent security analyst and writer. He has served in the Defence Forces and participated in EU counter-terrorism projects throughout Africa.