Saturday 24 March 2018

Inspectorate offers devastating view of An Garda Síochána

Non-recording of crime and two-tier policing among criticisms

Deputy Chief Inspector Mark Toland and Acting Deputy Chief Inspector Éimear Fisher arriving at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Deputy Chief Inspector Mark Toland and Acting Deputy Chief Inspector Éimear Fisher arriving at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Garda Inspectorate has delivered a devastating assessment of the running of An Garda Síochána.

Serious concerns about the non-recording of crime, "woefully" out-of-date technology, and a two-tier system of community policing, were raised at the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

Clare Daly at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Clare Daly at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke

TDs and Senators were also told there is a "lack of visibility" by gardaí in communities and that at least 1,500 members in non-operational roles could be released for patrols and investigations.

Deputy Chief Inspector Mark Toland - a former chief superintendent in London's Metropolitan Police - delivered a stark presentation at the committee.

He outlined various Inspectorate reports, saying that the agency "found deficiencies in governance, accountability, leadership and supervision".

Mr Toland said the current garda culture "is inhibiting change" and that while staff have a can-do attitude and sense of duty, many "described the organisation as insular, defensive, with a blame culture where many leaders are reluctant to make decisions and to speak up".

"We believe that front-line services are not prioritised and protected," Mr Toland said. He added that feedback from communities the inspectorate visited "highlights the lack of a visible garda presence".

Mr Toland said that An Garda Síochána has "broadly accepted the vast majority" of 574 Inspectorate recommendations made in 11 reports over the last nine years.

However, he said the organisation doesn't have the authority to oversee their implementation and it's "frustrating" that recommendations have now been repeated without gardaí putting them into action.

Éimear Fisher, an acting deputy chief inspector, acknowledged that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has published a modernisation and reform plan, but said that the Inspectorate would like to see "more energetic implementation" of their reports.

Mr Toland said some recent inquiries into controversies in the force may not have happened if previous recommendations had been implemented.

He also mentioned that the Inspectorate's 2014 report on crime investigation noted the non-recording and misclassification of crime and that these findings have been echoed in three Central Statistics Office (CSO) reports since.

He said it is "most disappointing" a member of the public can approach a garda on the street or call a station to report a crime and it's not always recorded on the Garda's Pulse system.

Mr Toland said this makes it "impossible" for management to know how busy officers are and therefore "difficult to decide how many guards you actually need".

He also said that gardaí are nearly 30 years behind other police services when it comes to technology.

He acknowledged that the Government has put aside €200m to invest in technology and that improvements in the Pulse system have taken place.

Mr Toland also said: "A two-tier community policing system exists, with high numbers of gardaí in Dublin, but significantly less in other areas, particularly rural Ireland."

Mr Toland said one power the Inspectorate would like is to be able to make unannounced inspection visits to garda stations.

A Garda spokesperson said that the reform plan takes on-board the recommendations in all 11 Garda Inspectorate reports.

He said changes will include advanced IT systems and hiring civilians to free up gardaí for frontline duties, while the Commissioner has recognised the need to "renew Garda culture" so it's more open to dissent.

Irish Independent

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