Crime fighting units that have been key to toppling Limerick drug gangs are to be disbanded as a consequence of the Garda Commissioner’s controversial working hours plan, according to rank-and-file gardaí.
Garda management in the Treaty City “informed members attached to community policing that their units were being disbanded, and they were being reassigned to core frontline duties”, Garda Frank Thornton of Garda Representative Association (GRA) said.
“In addition members attached to the rural Drugs Unit are also being redeployed onto frontline duties, and proactive operations like Operation Croí [set up to combat the sale of drugs] has been discontinued, which in effect erodes all the efforts to date in combating crime and drug activity in Limerick.”
Garda Thornton, former president of the GRA, described the community policing units as “the bedrock of An Garda Síochána”.
Concern among rank-and-file gardaí about the redeployment of members comes amid a row over rosters that led to more than 9,000 gardaí expressing no confidence in Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, last Wednesday.
When asked if there would be any dedicated community policing unit operating in Limerick city under the roster plans, a senior Garda source replied: “There will be none.”
“I never thought the day would come that we would have these types of changes to community policing, but this is where it is going unfortunately. Community policing won’t be able to be maintained from the change in the rosters,” the source added.
“These officers will be pulled back to front line policing and will have no time to conduct community policing — It is a pile of s**t, excuse my language, but what is happening now is just awful,” another Garda source said.
Other specialised Garda units, including roads policing, are “coming under the microscope” of Garda Headquarters, a senior source said.
The situation is being replicated in Garda Divisions across the country, the source said.
Gardaí are angry over the Commissioner’s plans for officers to return to pre-Covid rostering, known as the Westmanstown roster, where gardaí work six days on and four days off, as opposed to an emergency roster that was brought in during the pandemic where gardaí work four days on and four days off, and which gardaí claim has made them more efficient as well as improving their work-life-balance.
The Westmanstown roster allowed for “specialist units” to be developed over the past three to four years, “including armed response units, drug units, the protected services units that investigate sexual crimes,” a Garda source explained.
“These are all really good units - but all these units drew away from the frontline.” Moving to the new roster means diluting resources for the units, “which isn’t possible, and in order to make it possible, management have to [wrap up] specialised units”.
Asked for comment, a Garda Headquarters spokeswoman said it was liaising with the Limerick Garda Division and would reply in due course.