Patrol car shortage as cutbacks hit gardai
GARDA management will have to cope with a shortage of patrols cars as well as cutbacks in personnel in the coming months.
As more senior officers notified the authorities last week they intended to retire early from the force because of impending changes to their pensions, it has emerged that those remaining are facing a dwindling fleet of cars.
The problem is expected to become particularly acute in some rural divisions where the local management is totally reliant on mobile patrols to carry out routine policing and provide back-up in the event of an emergency.
When garda cars clock up 300,000km they are no longer considered safe to drive and must be taken off the road.
However, restricted budgets have meant there is no cash available to purchase new cars to replace the vehicles that have been 'grounded'.
At the start of the year gardai started to take delivery of 150 new patrol cars but without further additions the intake is less than the number of vehicles surpassing the mileage limit.
A large portion of the fleet is more than four years old with high mileages and officers in rural divisions are being forced to meet their policing obligations while trying to be economical in the use of the cars.
The problem has been raised repeatedly by the Garda Representative Association, which warned earlier this year that more than 80pc of the fleet was over three years old and that last year 342 patrol cars which had crashed were repaired and put back on the road.
It said the poor condition of the fleet was putting the lives of the public and the gardai at risk. A spokesman said last night: "The chickens are now coming home to roost. We warned that the fleet needed to be upgraded again but our calls went unheeded".
Meanwhile, the number of senior officers leaving the force before the end of February is now more than one in six of the top personnel. The tally now stands at two assistant commissioners with a third post already vacant, at least 10 chief superintendents and 22 superintendents following a number of personnel handing in their papers in the past week.
Some of them were due to retire on age grounds within a year of the pension changes being implemented but others are as young as 51 and 54 years old.
The posts being held by the exiting officers range from garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park to the specialist units including the national fraud bureau and the national bureau of criminal investigation, as well as urban and rural divisions and districts.
At present, officers completing 30 years' service are eligible for retirement with their lump sums calculated on 1.5 times the final year's salary on pre-2009 rates and a pension equivalent to half of the current pay scale. However, from March 1, the lump sums will be calculated on the new pay levels, which reduced garda pay by about 7pc.
The shortfall in the lump sum will be about €6,000 for a garda, €10,000 for a superintendent and €13,000 for a chief.