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Time to put up or shut up if report is accepted

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Robert K Olson, Chief Inspector at a Press Conference held by the Garda Inspectorate to mark the publication of the Inspectorate's tenth report yesterday. Picture:Arthur Carron

Robert K Olson, Chief Inspector at a Press Conference held by the Garda Inspectorate to mark the publication of the Inspectorate's tenth report yesterday. Picture:Arthur Carron

Robert K Olson, Chief Inspector at a Press Conference held by the Garda Inspectorate to mark the publication of the Inspectorate's tenth report yesterday. Picture:Arthur Carron

AFTER the torrid time they have endured since the start of the year, gardai could not be blamed if their initial response to the publication of the Inspectorate report was they needed it like a hole in the head.

But this report is a little different. It has been carefully researched over two years, building on the Inspectorate's previous findings and is not the result of a hurried, on-the-run reaction to a particular crisis.

The outcome is 500 pages of findings and recommendations that can play a vital role in the overall plans to modernise and overhaul the workings of the force.

Even the most conservative garda will accept that change was inevitable and, in many cases, long overdue and some of the deficiencies identified by the Inspectorate were already well known to most of the force.

Very few regarded the PULSE computer system as an unqualified success and the classification of crimes has always been a contentious issue, with a lack of consistency one of the problems highlighted.

The Inspectorate accepts that wrong classifications or reclassifications were not the result of malevolent attempts to massage the figures, but the outcome of a lack of oversight and a defined policy. More than 200 recommendations have been issued by the watchdog body and the majority of them revolve around the need for a big investment in technology and the development of greater oversight in the force.

The former will require a substantial amount of cash and the latter a significant increase in the strength of the force.

The Inspectorate say they have not calculated the cost of the required investment and say neither they nor the Garda authorities know the optimum strength of the force.

That is true, as nobody has ever attempted to carry out such a survey - despite repeated calls from the representative associations for a numbers study.

There is no doubt that if the scenario painted by the Inspectorate is to become a reality, the garda strength has to be increased substantially.

There are plans to regionalise crime investigation and appoint separate teams at divisional level.

This could be a good move, but only if it does not impact on the national units, which in some cases could become more compact but should not be taken out of action.

This report is a warning to the Garda. But it is also a wake-up call to the Government. Either put up or shut up.

Without the proper resources, all of the necessary changes cannot be implemented. As the chief inspector of the Inspectorate, Bob Olson, said this is a watershed opportunity. Lets hope it is not a wasted one.

Irish Independent