Front-line policing ‘reduced’ to fill garda admin jobs

Garda Inspectorate’s ‘snapshot’ study finds that sometimes only 40% of gardaí are on operational duties

Only four in 10 gardaí on duty at any time are involved in traditional patrolling duties, a major report on the force has found.

In some ranks, as many as 27 per cent of personnel are permanently assigned to duties that do not involve operational police work.

The study by the Garda Inspectorate has not yet been published but was seen by The Irish Times.

It also reveals that, in the years of reduced resources, the number of gardaí deployed to front-line policing was reduced as more and more were assigned to administrative posts, including Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.


“[Analysis] showed that . . . the numbers of members in operational and specialist roles have reduced,” the report says. “But [Garda] Headquarters has seen an increase in 8.6 per cent in members assigned to administrative roles.

“With overall reductions in numbers, the Inspectorate expected to see the opposite trend to protect front-line services.”

In Garda Headquarters, there was one sergeant for every two rank-and-file garda. In some community policing units, however, there was only one sergeant for every 28 rank- and-file garda.

Front-line sacrifices

The Inspectorate found that communities were seeing a reduction in policing at a time when staffing trends for the force revealed front-line posts were being sacrificed to fill administrative positions.

“In the majority of the divisions visited, front-line units were often on duty without a dedicated sergeant,” the report says. “It was also the case that administrative posts were sometimes filled by sergeants at the expense of the front-line.”

A “snapshot in time” study by the Inspectorate carried out at 11am on a Tuesday and 11pm on a Saturday in the same week in August found a much higher – though no specifically stated – rate of absenteeism on the Saturday.

Some 40 per cent of those on duty on Tuesday were on patrol, with that figure reaching 64 per cent on Saturday night.

The Garda Reserve was underutilised, with only 34 members on duty nationally on Saturday night.

Another analysis by the Inspectorate found that 12 per cent of rank-and-file gardaí were permanently assigned to posts not involving operational police work.

This climbed to 16 per cent at sergeant rank, 24 per cent at inspector rank and 27 per cent at superintendent level.

Unfair promotions

A large number of gardaí feel promotion processes within the force are “unfair” and do not always ensure the best candidates were selected.

The Inspectorate also flagged “poor performance and low productivity of some staff”. The failure of supervisors to tackle such issues was raised as a major concern.

The Garda should, for the first time, put a concerted effort into recruiting officers serving in other countries, the Inspectorate recommends.

Robert Olson, the civilian chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate and author of the report, says management should , for the first time, actively consult with Government ministers and departments about the force's budget allocation.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times