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Garda commissioner denies force engages in racial profiling after Traveller study finds high levels of distrust

A recent study by University of Limerick found that 59pc of Travellers believed they were stopped by gardaí because of their ethnicity


Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Picture: Collins

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Picture: Collins

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Picture: Collins

The Garda Commissioner has said that gardaí don't engage in racial profiling and described it as a "very serious allegation" to make against the force.

A recent study looking at Irish Travellers’ access to the justice system found that 59pc of those surveyed believed they were stopped by gardaí because of their ethnicity.

Travellers also reported believing gardaí thought they were the "lowest of the low" , while a third said they did not have trust in the courts.

This afternoon at a Policing Authority meeting, Garda chief Drew Harris said the findings were "very concerning" and that they needed to take time to review the recommendations.

However, he said he could not accept that gardaí profiled people based on their ethnicity, without carrying out their own inquiries first.

"I don't believe we do undertake racial profiling and I'm not in a position to accept that that's an allegation for An Garda Síochána," he said.

Mr Harris added that the finding was made and that there must be recourse for the organisation to make a response to it.

"I don't accept that a report that we haven't been able actually to form a view of and then make a response to it, that I must accept that finding,” he said.

"We have to do our own inquiry. Racial profiling is a very serious allegation to level against An Garda Síochána, and before I accept that, I want to be certain of the reasons why I'm accepting that allegation.”

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He said that the Garda's human rights group is liaising with the report's authors to examine its findings and recommendations

The study, from the University of Limerick, surveyed one in 100 Travellers in Ireland, with almost 60pc saying they were stopped because of their ethnicity.

Almost half of these stated the location of the stop contributed to their conviction that they were ethnically profiled, while some also recalled being called k****ers by gardaí and having their attempts to report crimes dismissed.

Mr Harris also said that some of the statistics around trust in the force from the Traveller community were "stark" and needed to be addressed.

"I accept the seriousness of the deficit there is in our relationship with the Traveller community and trust they have in An Garda Síochána and most seriously their reluctance to report matters and report being a victim of crime,” he said.

The report also said that 50pc of Travellers surveyed reported that gardaí entered a home they were in without a warrant or invitation in the past five years.

Drew Harris said there were allegations made and they were working their way through these to determine what happened, but said there can be legitimate reasons for gardaí entering a dwelling without a warrant.

He added that they are currently creating short films to publish on social media which will explain various Garda powers including stopping vehicles, requesting documents, arresting people and searching a premises.

The meeting was told that this was to inform not just the Traveller community but wider society on how Garda powers are used.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Clavin also gave an update on the functions of the force's Anti-Corruption Unit.

He said the unit expects to receive an additional 20 gardaí and four sergeants following a number of departures due to promotions, and that he was "pleasantly surprised" by the number of reports they were getting.

The senior garda also said they now have a legal basis to carry out drug testing of gardaí.

This, he said, will include all garda applicants pre-selection, all student gardaí, and 5pc of all garda personnel randomly on a yearly basis.

Mr Clavin said that this will include members of all ranks and garda staff, and that he expects the regulations to be in place by September.

Failing a drug test could merit dismissal, while failing to submit to drug testing will also lead to serious misconduct proceedings.

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