Tuesday 20 March 2018

'An Garda Síochana resistent to change' - Garda Inspectorate Chief Bob Olson

Garda Inspectorate Chief Inspector, Bob Olson
Garda Inspectorate Chief Inspector, Bob Olson

Sasha Brady

An Garda Síochana is "resistant to change", according to the head of the Garda Inspectorate Bob Olson.

Speaking to RTÉ's This Week programme Mr Olson said that now is the time to implement key reforms proposed by the Garda Inspectorate in their report published last week.

The report, Changing Policing in Ireland, said the “culture and structure” of the force has holding back frontline gardaí from doing their jobs.

Mr Olson said that An Garda Síochana was a "very insular organisation" and that previous reforms identified following the Morris Tribunal, and as far back as a Strategic Management (SMI) report in the 1990s, had not been put into action.

"No-one had made the change happen," he said.

The inspectorate found that, when resources fell short in recent years, front-line policing was neglected.

Since the 2012 roster changes, policing visibility and front-line activity has declined and Mr Olson said the public wanted to see more gardaí on the beat within urban and rural communities.

In response to the decline of resources in recent years, Mr Olson said that if civilians were adequately trained, it would free up the 1,500 desk-bound gardaí for front-line services.

"There are too many supervisors at headquarters and in non-operational roles to the detriment of front-line supervision," Mr Olson said.

Mr Olson also said there needed to be a stronger focus on case management within the force, with a greater priority on investigating cases that can be advanced.

He said that they had encountered some gardaí who said they had as many as 500 cases on their hands.

"We said okay, what are you doing with those.

Why don't you focus on ten cases and maybe catch some criminals," he said.

The Government has provided funds for cars, stations refurbishment, new garda recruits and IT systems and Mr Olson believes that this has provided the perfect opportunity to reform the structures of the force.

He also called for the restructure of the top tier of the force to allow one Deputy Commissioner to take charge of operational crime investigation and another to head up centralised governance.

"There's governance all over the place ... and they're all doing things differently to each other," he said, in relation to the running of the 97 different divisions in the force.

Mr Olson said that it if the changes were not implemented it would be "as Sonny and Cher said the beat goes on; nothing's going to change" and there would be no major improvement in the force's performance.

"Policing has moved on. If they don't rise to the challenge they're just going to be stuck in neutral," he said.

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