Friday 23 February 2018

'It is entirely of their own making' - Rank and file gardaí blame management for breath test fiasco

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Rank and file gardaí say they will not be "scapegoated" for the scandal surrounding fake breath tests and have pointed the finger at management for the fiasco.

In a hard-hitting statement, released this afternoon, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said no one can categorically say that the false numbers were only concocted by uniformed and low-ranking officers.

The organisation, which represents over 10,400 members, said that demands were put on their members to deliver data on the number of breath tests at a time when resources were stretched.

They claim that this data was "utilised as a crude measure of productivity", adding that it fed into a culture of competition among senior ranks to "improve their promotion chances".

An investigation, carried out by Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan, discovered evidence of almost 1.5 million breath tests which were not carried out.

The GRA said rank-and-file officers got little or no training and that the recording process was obviously flawed.

"It is clear in the report that Garda management do not wish to be blamed for this debacle - but it is entirely of their own making," the GRA said.

"Their obsession with data collection, for no clear and distinct purpose, while our members were issued with endless directives at a time of under-resourcing, no training, increased workloads and an unclear system of collation was a policy of failure.

"Our members will not be scapegoated for ill-considered policies - and this should be the focus of political attention.

"If the people of Ireland have been let down; then it is in the management and deployment of scant resources to appease the need for purposeless data by those in power."

An internal audit into the gross exaggeration of breath tests found 1,458,221 bogus drink and drug-driving checks from 2009 to 2016.

Some 3,498,400 tests were recorded on the Garda's internal Pulse computer system, but only 2,040,179 were carried out.

The scale of the scandal was revealed a few days before Noirin O'Sullivan announced her retirement as commissioner.

It was the latest in a long line of controversies and allegations that dogged the former police chief's time at the helm. Other big issues included the treatment of whistleblowers, financial irregularities in the Templemore training college and inaccurate crime and homicide statistics.

Ms O'Sullivan retired last Sunday claiming the job of commissioner was about responding to an unending cycle of accountability for past mistakes rather than getting on with reforming the force.

Her predecessor Martin Callinan also retired suddenly.

The GRA said it had questions to ask over why Garda management wanted so much data on "negative breath tests" when Garda resources were scarce or diminishing.

The organisation also claimed that it blew the whistle on bogus crime statistics.

It said it exposed the practice of crime figures being massaged downwards and that it was subsequently vindicated by the Garda Siochana Inspectorate and the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The CSO last week refused to publish the latest round of crime statistics provided by the Garda.

It had previously stopped publishing the reports in 2014 after the Garda Inspectorate raised concerns that some numbers were inaccurate. It had resumed publishing in the middle of 2015.

The latest refusal centres on warnings from Garda data analysts that homicide figures are incorrect.

At its conference in 2013 then-GRA president John Parker warned that a new reporting system rolled out over the previous two years allowed crime data to be easily massaged.

He warned that there was anecdotal evidence from officers about incidents being miss-classified or unrecorded because no formal statement was made or because an offence was attempted but abandoned.

With additional reporting by PA

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