Thursday 20 June 2019

Not enough officers on beat despite 900 civilian recruits

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

THE Government's plan to free up more gardai from their desks to tackle crime has fallen short of expectations.

It has approved more than 900 new civilian posts since 2005 -- but the number of garda personnel put on frontline duties as a result was just 144.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's report said this was considerably less than the number envisaged. It criticised the lack of progress, saying there needed to be a greater emphasis on targets for police replacement with civilians "in order to allow for effective verification of the extent of replacement".

The report noted that the number of gardai who receive allowances while carrying out administrative duties has fallen from just 366 to 350 in the period while almost 900 civilians were recruited.

As far back as 2001, an expert report concluded that there was a significant additional cost in employing a garda to do work that did not require garda skills.

If a garda administrator was replaced by a civilian paid at clerical officer rate, there would be an annual saving of more than €13,000. This figure would rise to €22,000 if a garda superintendent was replaced by a civilian at principal officer level.

There are around 2,100 civilians currently working alongside 12,000 gardai and they carry out a wide variety of tasks. Many of them are located in three key centres:

  • The Garda Information Services Centre is located in Castlebar, Co Mayo, and is staffed by 197 civilian personnel, one garda inspector and three garda sergeants. The staff input 13,000 -14,000 incident reports every week from gardai on the beat into the garda PULSE database. l The Garda Central Vetting Unit is located in Thurles, Co Tipperary, and is staffed by 72 civilian personnel, one garda superintendent and five garda sergeants. It handles queries from the 17,000 organisations which are entitled to seek vetting of employees who may have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults.
  • The Fixed Charge Processing Office is located in Thurles, Co Tipperary, and is staffed by 67 civilian personnel and one garda inspector. It sends out fixed-charge notices following the capture of information by notepad, electronic notepad and speed cameras.

The ratio of civilians to police officers in An Garda Siochana is approximately one to seven compared with international norms of one to three in Britain and one to four in Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands.

The report said the ratio of civilians to gardai was low by international standards and said there was a need for modern analysis techniques to determine the scope for increasing the number further.

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