Wednesday 22 November 2017

Callinan to streamline and update garda force

New chief to tackle inefficiencies

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

INCOMING Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is expected to oversee some of the most far-reaching reforms of garda structures since the foundation of the force.

The deputy commissioner, who takes up command from New Year, is seen as one of the most capable managers of his generation. Senior sources say he has already been paving the way to improve efficiency in the rostering of uniformed units, particularly in Dublin, as well as revising station opening hours and deploying gardai when they are most needed.

Closing stations and concentrating garda resources has long been one of the prime areas for structural reform, but until now political opposition has prevented this.

The new commissioner has the help of the Garda Inspectorate, appointed by the Government in the aftermath of the Morris report into corruption and inefficient policing in Donegal.

The inefficiencies in the traditional structures were highlighted in the report earlier this year by the head of the Garda Inspectorate, and former Boston Police Commissioner Kathy O'Toole in her report on resource allocation in the Garda Siochana. According to sources, Callinan has fully taken on O'Toole's recommendations. He has been preparing to change policing structures -- some of which have been in place since the early part of the 20th Century.

He is examining inefficiencies in the "three-relief" roster system in Dublin, which is not only contrary to EU regulations, but highly inefficient in providing beat gardai when they are most needed.

Under the present system, as many gardai are on duty in Dublin at the shift change at 6am on a Monday morning as there are at 11pm on a Friday night when public order problems are at their height.

Opening hours for garda stations, again most notably in Dublin, are also to be tackled. At present, 42 of the 47 stations in the gardai's Dublin Metropolitan Area open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, covering a population of just under one million. By contrast, other major cities in Europe and north America keep only a fraction of this number of stations open between 10pm and 7am when crime drops to its lowest levels. The London Metropolitan Police, serving a population of nine million, is planning to have the city covered by only five police "centres" during the night. Canada has set the trend in police efficiency: Toronto, a city of 2.3 million, is covered by only three main stations at night.

Another of the massive inefficiencies in garda work -- issuing and filling out forms like passport applications -- is also set to be tackled. The Garda Inspectorate Resource Allocation report showed that 56 per cent of calls by the public to garda stations were in relation to either collecting or filling in forms -- work that could readily be done by civilian clerical staff. Only 11 per cent of calls to garda stations were to report a crime.

The gardai have also failed to implement recommendations on increased "civilianisation" of clerical jobs, to free up gardai for frontline work.

One of the biggest tasks facing the new commissioner is the modernisation and streamlining of communications. The Garda Siochana is decades behind other police forces in the use of computers both in stations and cars.

The 999 emergency system is also set for a huge overhaul, reducing the 90-plus emergency call centres to only two or three, with new targets being set for response times.

Sunday Independent

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