Sunday 16 December 2018

'Invisible' police force 'crying out for leadership', says Charleton

Stock photo
Stock photo
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The country has a real problem "due to the invisibility" of its police force, according to the outgoing chairman of the Disclosures Tribunal.

Members of An Garda Síochána are also "crying out for leadership", Mr Justice Peter Charleton has said.

The comments were among a series of wide-ranging criticisms of the force in the tribunal's third interim report.

The judge said that during the tribunal, gardaí had offered no criticism of themselves. "They need a complete turnaround in their attitude. This has to be led from senior management," he said.

One of the major criticisms he made was that gardaí are not visible on our streets.

He said this was in contrast to other major cities, such as Rome, London and Athens, where police are visible at intersections, at junctions and in public plazas and squares.

"The extraordinary aspect of our police force is that they keep themselves isolated in police stations and then transport themselves around in squad cars," he said.

"It is extraordinarily rare that gardaí are seen in uniform on the streets."

The judge said the failure to police cycle lanes was indicative of this lack of visibility.

"Cars block cycle lanes, intrude on them and endanger cyclists. That happens repeatedly within a minute's walk of Garda stations. So, where are the gardaí? Again, this may be dismissed as a small example, but the consequences of serious injury, for even one person, is a tragedy," he said.

He recommended that everyone serving in the Garda should give a portion of their day to foot and bicycle patrols.

Mr Justice Charleton also recommended "the immediate re-imposition of a strong command structure and appropriate structures of discipline".

"During the time when Maurice McCabe was seeking a better level of policing standards, there were plenty of people who said nothing was wrong," he said.

"There is ample evidence that we have these problems. Part of the answer is in restoring accountability and, most importantly, in restoring the structure of command."

The judge also said there were obligations on gardaí to take pride in their work and in their uniform, to be polite, and to serve the people of Ireland.

He said there was also an obligation for self-analysis.

In a statement, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that given the significance of the report he would be establishing a group to examine Mr Justice Charleton's findings from policy, process, discipline and cultural perspectives.

Irish Independent

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