Gardai may be forced to use private firms for police work
A SENIOR garda has raised the prospect of private security firms being tasked with serving summons or even issuing firearms licences if gardai were confronted with stringent cutbacks in the future.
Assistant garda commissioner Donall O'Cualain, who is responsible for the western region, said cuts to funding and personnel could result in the force having to prioritise its responsibilities.
He suggested that the serving of warrants and collection of fines might have to be transferred over to private security firms, civilian staff or local authorities.
However, a garda spokesman said last night that there were no plans to hand over the execution of warrants to private security guards.
He said Mr O'Cualain had been putting forward a scenario for discussion on policing post-2020 but pointed out that certain duties would not be transferred to private firms.
Speaking at a health conference at NUI, Galway yesterday, Mr O'Cualain stressed that despite citizen expectations and an increase in criminality, the ongoing austerity measures meant that cost reduction was a priority.
"Prioritisation of our responsibilities in the future may have to be carried out, especially if financial and human resources are to be lowered.
"Our rising expectations will be driven by factors such as the accelerating pace of technological change, transparency and accountability, growing consumer demand, value for money and cost effectiveness.
"Many of our responsibilities may have to be divested. Areas like the service of summonses, warrants, collections of fines, lost property and firearms licensing could potentially be carried out by other agencies such as private security firms, trained civilian staff and, in some cases, local authorities," he said.
Mr O'Cualain pointed out that the more than €3bn in cuts applied to the health service represented twice the current garda budget.
He added that gardai "needed to do more with less in the future".
He said that more engagement and collaboration with other agencies, including the Prison Service, Revenue, Customs, the Defence Forces, the Probation Service, the Court Service, the Road Safety Authority and the HSE would be necessary to ensure the "efficient and effective service delivery to our community".
He said austerity measures put extraordinary pressures on policing. "We need to prioritise and compromise in certain activities to target limited resources to best effect," he added.
Mr O'Cualain said the current recession had led to a complete review of garda operations. Speaking of the initiatives that had been implemented in recent years within the force, Mr O'Cualain referenced the performance, accountability and learning framework.
He pointed out that in times of recession, programmes or initiatives were put on the agenda that "you might not be able to get away with in times of plenty".
He added that policing challenges remained considerable when dealing with organised crime, cyber crime, economic challenges and white-collar crime.