Gardai 'need Tasers as attacks on patrols rise'
GARDAI want non-lethal Taser guns issued to regular patrol units to act as a deterrent against assaults and reduce street violence.
The call has been made against a background of increasing violence against gardai.
A more comprehensive method of recording the level of attacks has produced findings, indicating that up to a thousand assaults are being carried out on gardai annually.
The new system was introduced last October and deputy general secretary of the Garda Representative Association John Healy said the statistics were based on the figures recorded so far.
He said between 950 and 1,000 assaults had been made, compared with an annual figure of between 400 and 425 that had been recorded previously.
Mr Healy said previous figures provided by the Health and Safety Authority did not include incidents where members were spat upon or threatened with violence.
All headline assaults were being recorded but some minor incidents, which were also of serious concerns to gardai, were not being noted officially.
The figures were disclosed as the association's annual conference got under way in Killarney last night.
Association president John Parker said his members should not have to rely on the regional support units to come to their aid with Tasers.
He proposed that each of the regular uniformed units should be supplied with a Taser gun to temporarily stun attackers, and pilot projects should be launched in violent "blackspots".
Mr Parker said the gardai did not want to be turned into an armed force and the availability of Tasers would help them to cope with attacks.
He also called for a larger intake of recruits when the new classes were sent to the Garda College in Templemore in July.
Mr Parker said Justice Minister Alan Shatter did not seem to know whether there would be two or three intakes this year. Each intake would comprise around 100 recruits.
The shortage of resources and manpower, he believed, were responsible for some crimes not being reported to the gardai.
He also welcomed the successful captures of drug shipments in recent months but believed that a similar number of consignments were "slipping the net".
Mr Parker blamed this random policing on a reduction in the spare capacity that had been there in the past to increase patrolling, where necessary.
Intelligence-led operations were proving very successful but the current "reactionary policing" resulted in a hit and miss factor because there were not enough feet on the ground.
"If you increase time and manpower in the fight against crime, you get returns ten-fold," he added.