Thursday 18 July 2019

More women needed in public order policing units - report

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Stock photo
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

A REPORT into Garda public order policing has said there needs to be improved governance on use of force as well as more female members in the specialist units.

Concerns have also been raised about an ad hoc approach to organisational learning of public order policing while the review calls for a more transparent selection process for public order units.

The recommendations were made in a report by the Garda Inspectorate, on behalf of the Policing Authority, which was published today.

It followed the Authority’s oversight and assessment of the garda response to two high-profile incidents involving public order policing;  the Jobstown protest at An Cosan in 2014, and the North Frederick Street protests in 2018.

The inspection identified some areas of good practice, such as public order training and the professionalism of operational public order commanders.

The report dealt with a number of areas including governance and accountability, operational delivery as well as post-incident management.

A total of 19 recommendations were made, including that the remit of the Garda Public Order Steering Group be expanded to include the internal monitoring of use of force.

Data on use of force should also be published on the Garda website, and that external oversight of garda use of force should be incorporated into performance monitoring by oversight bodies.

The Garda Inspectorate also recommended the urgent development of a Strategic Threat Risk Assessment (STRA) to examine the Garda’s organisational readiness, contingency planning and emerging protester tactics.

It found that, of the more than 1,100 public order trained gardai nationally, only between 5pc and 8pc were female with exact figures not available.

The oversight body has recommended that a specific strategy is introduced to “develop greater female representation in public order policing.”

The quality of the public order selection process was also highlighted, with an overall lack of understanding on how public order gardai are selected.

In some cases unsuccessful members received no explanation as to why they were not selected, while other members described being successful after lobbying training sergeants.

The Inspectorate recommended that a ‘standardised and transparent’ selection process is developed for the National Public Order Unit.

It also said that it “fully supports the use of photographic and video equipment by gardai at public events for evidence gathering purposes.”

The number of public order unit members compared to the recommended figure vary greatly in Garda regions, the Inspectorate found.

In the Dublin Region there are 634 trained members although the National Minimum Standards Document sets the figure at 450.

In comparison, the Southern Region has trained only 49 of the required 150 members. The South Eastern, Western and Northern regions are all below the recommended numbers.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Policing Authority Chair Josephine Feehily thanked the Garda Inspectorate for their work on the review.

“Effective public order policing which recognises the right to freedom of assembly and the right to public protest  is essential in  a healthy democracy and, in this context, every year, the Garda Síochána manages many large public gatherings effectively and without incident.

“The Garda Inspectorate has identified that the greatest risk with regard to public order does not arise from the potential for widespread public disorder, which in an Irish context would

be considered relatively low. The risk arises from inconsistent governance and application of Garda policy in this area of policing. It is an internal risk rather than one posed by the environment,” Ms Feehily said.

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