Garda has no vision for future of force, appraisal concludes

Frontline gardaí disconnected from modernisation plans, says Policing Authority report

Those in the Garda who “shouted loudest” were often allocate resources rather than professional decision-making deciding resource allocation, report said

There is no vision in the Garda for what the force will look like and how it will work when a current expansion programme is completed, a new Policing Authority appraisal has concluded.

“Change has not landed at the front line,” the authority says, adding a cultural audit of Garda members clearly revealed scepticism towards the Modernisation of Renewal Programme.

“The frontline [gardaí] feel disconnected from this work. And despite efforts by the centre to communicate the work being undertaken, in the absence of tangible outcomes for Garda members, staff and reserves this had not been effective.”

There is little understanding or consensus within the Garda about the role and benefits of civilians in the organisation or the Garda Reserve, which was hampering progress with both, the report says.


Those in the Garda who “shouted loudest” were often allocate finite resources rather than comprehensively and professional decision-making deciding resource allocation, it said.

The Policing Authority's report, which assesses progress with that modernisation programme which was set out five years ago, was written in February, six months after Garda Commissioner Drew Harris took office.

Mixed bag

The findings, a mixed bag of positive observations and worrying findings, could be seen as the first report card on the modernisation and change programme during Mr Harris’s time in charge.

The authority's report, the seventh and final appraisal of the modernisation programme that it has written, was published by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan on Wednesday evening.

He said he was “particularly struck” by the finding that not enough attention was being paid within the Garda to enablers of change; such as IT and human resources changes.

However, Mr Flanagan said the Modernisation of Renewal Programme had “now been superseded by the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland”.

He said he believed the plan being followed by Mr Harris to implement those recommendations was a realistic one.

The Policing Authority report notes that “pockets of the Garda” had demonstrated a real appetite for change and it was becoming clear that improvements in dealing with victims were being experienced by the public.

Some IT initiatives which had the potential to be “transformative” – such as the “investigation management system”, which will enable to easy tracking of progress in investigations – were outstanding but were due for implementation this year, it says.

‘No settled view’

However, there remained an “absence of strategic vision” in the force and this had “bedevilled the implementation of change”.

The Policing Authority expands on this point, saying: "There is still no settled view articulated as to what the expanded Garda Síochána workforce will look like, how it will be recruited, trained, organised and how best it can be effective for the community."

Another problem was the willingness of Garda to immediately accept third party recommendations for change in the force. This was done before feasibility would assessed and resulted in the Garda repeatedly promising too much and not delivering, it says.

Many efforts to change had not taken into account the current state of readiness in the force for that change, the report says, noting that the Garda was still committing insufficient attention to the key areas that facilitate change; human resources, IT, accommodation, training and finance.

These needed to become “the first and main focus of the change effort itself”, it says. “A continued failure to tackle capacity in these areas will inhibit the success of any planned change.”

Planning and governance remained siloed within the Garda. This meant there was an inability to assess the overall demand for resources and it was also impossible for Mr Harris to get sight of change taking place across the organisation.

The Garda’s priorities, of the corporate risks the organisation faced, were not being considered when contests emerged within the force for the finite resources available.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times