Rank-and-file unarmed uniformed gardaí were the first to arrive on the scene of incidents involving firearms and explosive devices but had little or no training in how to handle those cases or even basic training about the weapons they may encounter, the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association in Killarney has heard.
A number of delegates demanded that gardaí be given “tactical” training aimed at developing best-practice within the force for preserving their own safety and that of members of the public.
Dublin East delegate Garda Ultan Sherlock said while he was not looking for uniformed gardaí to be armed, they still needed to have training in dealing with situations where others may be armed.
He was aware of cases where unarmed colleagues responding to reported armed siege incidents had gone to the scene to try and deal with the issue rather than sealing off the area and waiting for armed back-up from the Emergency Response Unit or Regional Support Unit.
Garda Alan Cummins, from Dublin South Central, said on 90 per cent of callouts, unarmed, uniformed gardaí were the first to respond to emergency calls, despite having no training to deal with such incidents.
He believed the GRA should lobby for new practices which would minimise the risk to unarmed gardaí from incidents involving firearms or the growing number of explosive devices being discovered.
He told delegates the Army’s bomb disposal teams had dealt with 250 call-outs relating to suspect explosive devices last year, with 80 involving viable devices. And to date this year, 23 viable devices had been dealt with.
While Army personnel were expertly equipped and trained to deal with these dangerous finds, the gardaí first on the scene did not have such equipment or training.
The conference also heard some gardaí responding to emergency situations in patrol cars could not use their flashing blue lights or warning siren because they had not completed a course to allow them drive in full emergency mode.
Delegates heard that some gardaí driving patrol cars did not have the full training for responding to emergency situations.