First five Garda divisions to face restructuring under new policing plan
Cork, Dublin South Central, Meath-Westmeath, Galway and Limerick face change
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris sought to allay fears that the divisional changes will see decision-making and resources concentrated in the new divisional headquarters. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
The model reduces the total number of Garda divisions from 28 to 19. It is intended to grant more autonomy to Garda commanders at divisional level and ensure more efficient use of resources.
Cork city, Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) South Central, Meath-Westmeath, Galway and Limerick have been selected as the first divisions to implement the new model.
The biggest changes will be seen in the Meath-Westmeath area. Up to now each county formed a separate division. They will be now merged under the command of one chief superintendent with the divisional headquarters relocating from Navan to Mullingar.
Meath and Westmeath were selected because a merger would allow the provision of “a wider range of policing services to communities in the area”, a Garda spokesman said.
Cork city, DMR South Central and Galway were selected because they have already run pilots of the new policing model.
Limerick was chosen because it is already at the desired scale for the new operating model, which will see between 600 and 800 gardaí assigned to each division.
Impact assessments are to be carried out in the five areas before major changes are made. The process will then continue in other areas around the country on a phased basis.
Clarity on Brexit
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris reiterated that no changes to divisions in the Border region will take place until there is clarity on Brexit.
The new model will also see Garda regions, which are commanded by an assistant commissioner, reduced from six to four: Northwest, Southwest, East and Dublin. These changes came into effect on Monday.
On Thursday Mr Harris sought to allay fears that the divisional changes will see decision-making and resources concentrated in the new divisional headquarters.
“An Garda Síochána has committed to ensuring superintendents will be in locations throughout a division and not all located in the divisional headquarters,” the Garda spokesman said. “An Garda Síochána has also said that every effort will be made to minimise disruption to personnel.”
Mr Harris said: “These changes will see us deliver a more responsive, more efficient and better service to local communities.
“It will mean increased numbers of gardaí working on the frontline, better investigations of crimes against the vulnerable, such as sexual crime, and community policing teams dedicated to working with communities to identify and tackle problem crimes in their area. The quicker we can make these changes at divisional level, the quicker we can deliver these improvements to communities.”
The changes will see most divisions increase in size, ensuring better investigative services locally “as divisions will have a wider range of specialist skills and expertise such as protective services, economic crime and cybercrime”, the Garda spokesman said.
Chief superintendents will have more autonomy within their divisions with Garda headquarters focusing on oversight and “supporting regions and divisions”.
However, major or complex criminal investigations will still be run at a national level.