Has the Garda Chief Lost the Room - His Policing Model is not working....................What Next..
Updated: Aug 18
Trevor Laffan raises some very important questions
As a young garda in Dublin in 1980, it was part of my duty to turn up for work 15 minutes before the start of every shift to allow for a briefing.
We lined up before a sergeant who gave us our instructions. We received details of any recent criminal activity in the area and advice on what to be aware of during our patrols.
Then we were on our way. The foot soldiers would be sent on various beats while the designated car crews and the motorcyclists would also be despatched.
The only time we would see the inside of the garda station after that would be for a 45-minute meal break or to process an arrested person.
One of my sergeants in those days liked to keep an eye on the clock during meal breaks and was never slow in coming into the kitchen to remind us that our time was up if we overstayed our welcome. He wanted us out on the beat.
Paperwork was attended to during the quiet periods and was a pain; something none of us looked forward to.
Computerisation dispensed with the need for carbon paper and the practice of sticking sheets of paper together with pins to keep the carbon paper in place, but members still preferred to be out and about instead of dealing with administration.
The sergeant would do his rounds outdoors too and meet up with the guys on the beat to make sure they were where they were supposed to be.
It was a simple style of policing. There was very little technology, but we managed.
I complained to the sergeant one time before I went on the beat that there was no walkie talkie available, and he told me to stick close to a phone box. No sympathy there.
There was camaraderie though. We were proud to wear the uniform and enjoyed the sense that we were all on the same side. We looked out for each other and a shout for assistance always got priority.
They were good days, but things seem to have changed dramatically since then.
For a start, there seems to be more of an emphasis on administration. Members are spending more time indoors attending to the demands imposed on them by technology and oversight than they are on the beat where they should be.
There are constant calls for extra resources, but there are mixed messages coming from the top.
Minister for Justice Simon Harris, standing in for Helen McEntee a few months ago, said he was satisfied with the assurance he received from the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris that he had the personnel and resources to do his job.
The commissioner assured him that he was satisfied he had “operational integrity” within the force to carry out the policing responses.
On another occasion, though, Minister Harris said it was “a statement of fact we want to increase Garda numbers and that we can always do with more gardaí.”
In light of the recent attack on an American tourist in Dublin, Minister McEntee said: “ I am in regular contact with Commissioner Harris on the issue of Garda visibility.”
That’s a vague statement, but she too must be satisfied with the current level of visibility because she claims she isn’t worried about walking the streets of Dublin.
Public opinion would suggest she’s on her own in that regard.
There is a definite lack of a garda presence on the streets, and not just in Dublin but in every city and town across the length and breadth of the country. But why is that, if the commissioner is satisfied with the level of resources at his disposal? Could it be down to the way those resources are managed?
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors stated: “We have a model of policing that doesn’t promote visible policing, it instead chains members to their desks trying to keep up to date with administrative burdens placed on them.”
They have called on the Government to look at this model.
Rank and file members complain they are more like administrators than police officers: Tied to a computer terminal and stifled from oversight from senior management, the Policing Authority, Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, and the Garda Inspectorate.
It’s a far remove from the community engagement style of policing that An Garda Síochána has been synonymous with for generations.
Over my 35-year service, I met and worked with many police officers from other jurisdictions, and I was always struck by how envious they were of the unique relationship we had in this country with the public and our local authorities.
Unfortunately, we’re losing that connection and the senior management team in Garda Headquarters must take responsibility for that.
While they are experienced police officers, very little of that experience has been gained in our jurisdiction.
The team is headed by a garda commissioner who, according to the garda website, had 34 years policing experience with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) before joining An Garda Síochána.
The Assistant Commissioner Governance and Accountability served in the RUC and PSNI for 25 years before joining An Garda Síochána.
The Assistant Commissioner Roads Policing & Community Engagement had 34 years’ policing experience with the PSNI before joining An Garda Síochána.
The Deputy Commissioner Strategy, Governance and Performance served as a police officer in Toronto, Canada for 25 years.
All well qualified, experienced police officers, but the majority of that experience has been gained elsewhere.
An Garda Síochána is a unique organisation with a proud history of community engagement, and now we’re in danger of losing that identity. The Garda Representative Association is to ballot its members on a no confidence motion in the Garda Commissioner. To use a football analogy, I think he may have lost the dressing room.