Senior gardaí need more recruits to do the job
Senior Garda officers have called for more targeted operations to tackle crime and terrorism - but warned that fresh initiatives must be properly resourced and fully funded.
They want a significant increase in recruitment to the force to offset the impact of the previous ban on new personnel and the numbers either leaving or being promoted.
Garda superintendents believe a regular intake of 800 recruits is needed, rather than the existing batch of 550 to 600.
They say the existing figure is not enough to cope with annual retirements and resignations, which are estimated at about 300, as well as those being promoted from rank and file.
Association of Garda Superintendents president Noel Cunningham told its annual conference in Naas that substantial gaps existed across the force as a result of the five-year moratorium on public service recruitment.
Apart from the big drop in the overall strength of the force, he said promotions also meant that deployment of personnel had to be distributed to keep up the levels of specialist units - without impacting on other areas of the organisation.
Mr Cunningham recommended the setting up of more targeted operations, which were focussed and properly funded.
He said Operation Thor, which was launched last November to crack down on burglaries nationwide and property crime, was a good example of how initiatives yielded the right results.
He said intelligence-led operations were needed to tackle areas such as organised crime, rural crime and dissident republican activity.
Mr Cunningham said he welcomed the promised modernisation programme but said it had to be properly managed and could take a number of years before the benefits of new technology and equipment could be seen.
He questioned the claim by the head of the Garda Inspectorate, Bob Olsen that 1,500 gardaí could be released from desk duties and sent out to police the streets while being replaced in the offices by civilians, and that 300 of those could be freed up immediately.
Mr Cunningham wanted to know where those people could be found - and pointed out that many of those officers filled pivotal roles in areas such as communications and would have to be replaced by civilians, who needed to be trained.
He also said he did not accept that morale in the force was low.
"I see people out there every day doing their job. It's a professional police force. That is not to say that they are not struggling in their personal lives", he added.
He said their problems should be sorted out by re- activating the Haddington Road agreement and bringing it to an early conclusion.
He was supported by association general secretary Denis Ferry, who said the stalling of Haddington Road was a big factor.