Friday 24 November 2017

Garda bosses are now using GPS to spy on rank-and-file officers

'It sends out the message that gardaí now need to be babysat while on duty' (Stock photo)
'It sends out the message that gardaí now need to be babysat while on duty' (Stock photo)

Niall O'Connor and Ralph Riegel

Garda management is now using satellite technology to keep tabs on rank-and-file officers dispatched to carry out checkpoints, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Officers up to the rank of superintendent have been ordered to use data from Garda patrol cars and even walkie-talkie sets to determine whether roadside operations have actually taken place.

Garda bosses have also ordered a series of random, routine inspections on site to ensure the verification of all checkpoint data.

The move is a direct response to the recent scandal involving fake breath tests and checkpoints, which has severely undermined public confidence in the force.

Last week, the Irish Independent revealed that Garda management launched an investigation into "irregularities" involving checkpoints in the Cork region.

Read more: 'If there's nothing to hide then what's the problem?' - readers react to garda demand for filming ban

Gardaí are suspected of having set up false checkpoints while on the clock.

The probe focuses on whether they logged the details of checkpoints in the Garda Pulse system that were never actually manned. Sources stressed the issue was being taken particularly seriously by Garda headquarters, given the series of discrepancies surrounding Garda figures that had emerged in recent weeks.

A Garda spokesperson said no disciplinary action had been served "to date".

Fears over the accuracy of such data soared after it emerged last month that up to one million breath tests were not conducted as claimed by Garda checkpoint data records.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan is under major pressure to assure the Government that the necessary measures are being taken over the issue of phantom figures.

Now, senior officers are conducting random and routine inspections of checkpoints nationwide - and have been told to use the data from the GPS system in patrol cars as well as the signal from officers' Tetra handsets as part of their inspections.

This is in tandem with the careful examination of all submitted checkpoint data.

"It is one step in addressing the whole issue," a source said.

"But it is considered an important step in ensuring that checkpoints are manned as directed in the locations specified and that there is absolutely no question over the records submitted."

But other sources last night expressed concern that such a move by Garda management will further undermine its relationship with rank-and-file gardaí. "It sends out the message that gardaí now need to be babysat while on duty," said one.

Read more: Two gardaí under investigation after allegedly setting up fake checkpoints while on the clock

The Irish Independent revealed last month a review was launched into the force's statistics on homicides, which include murder and manslaughter.

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) examined whether more than 40 homicide cases were wrongly classified.

It's understood a very small number of discrepancies were found in the classification of figures.

It has also been confirmed that other figures, such as domestic violence, have thrown up suspected irregularities.

Ms O'Sullivan still has the confidence of the Government, despite surviving a series of no-confidence motions levelled by the Opposition.

But she faces a series of difficult challenges ahead, including her appearance at the Disclosures Tribunal, which is examining the alleged smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Irish Independent

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