Tuesday 26 March 2019

Garda failures laid bare as watchdog criticises reform

Stock photo
Stock photo
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

The Policing Authority has expressed serious concerns with the Garda reform programme, which it says lacks clear vision for the future.

In a lengthy and critical report significant flaws including training, human resources and accommodation were laid bare.

As part of its assessment of the modernisation programme, a large amount of evidence was presented to the authority.

The issues raised included:

In one unit consisting of 26 officers, just one garda was trained to drive in emergency situations;

Risks were evident due to the proportion of gardaí probationers being deployed in some areas, especially with a lack of sergeants to supervise them;

A new development planned for Military Road in Dublin, to replace the Harcourt Square office, would see two Garda national units left without a base.

Recruits not receiving driver training as part of their basic training is a particular source of frustration for the authority.

The issues around the new headquarters for the organisation's national units were also previously raised by outgoing Acting Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin.

As a result of a funding cap, the development in Military Road will be one storey lower than projected, resulting in two units being without a base.

The units in question are not specified, but Harcourt Square currently houses most of the country's units targeting organised crime including the Special Detective Unit, Criminal Assets Bureau and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

A multi-million euro penalty will also be triggered in relation to the Harcourt Square lease if the building is not vacated in time.

The report, the fifth on the 'Implementation of Changing Policing in Ireland', was published along with its review of the overall policing performance in the current year.

On the modernisation and renewal programme running from 2016 to 2021, the authority said its frustration with the slow pace of implementation is now "secondary to the authority's concern over fundamental flaws in the reform process that are much more significant than timing".

Positives were also highlighted by the authority in its performance review - in particular to the efforts to combat organised crime and preserving life, which is being led by the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

Chair of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily said there was an "urgent" need for refocusing and reworking the modernisation programme.

Ms Feehily added that while there has been positive progress, advancement has been curtailed by issues around cost planning.

Irish Independent

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