Garda redundancy programme to precede reform plan

Reforms to focus on frontline policing and ensure gardaí ‘more visible in communities’

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: will undertake “a review of discipline as a matter of priority” in the first quarter of 2019.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: will undertake “a review of discipline as a matter of priority” in the first quarter of 2019. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Government is to be asked to fund “a limited and highly targeted” redundancy programme in the Garda Síochána to clear the way for policing reforms early next year, the Minister for Justice has said.

Meanwhile, changes to laws governing search, arrest and detention will be published by June, along with measures that will clear the way for gardaí to wear body-cameras.

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan appeared alongside Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to reveal details to implement the reforms put forward by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

The reforms, said the Minister, will put local frontline policing at the core of An Garda Síochána, “ensuring that gardaí are more visible in communities” across the State.

The Cabinet endorsed the commission’s recommendations on Tuesday, while a four-year plan, “Policing Service for the Future”, set out an implementation roadmap.

Mr Harris will undertake “a review of discipline as a matter of priority” in the first quarter of the year, following the recommendations of the Disclosures Tribunals led by Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Peter Charleton.

Garda chief superintendents will be given more power to make decisions locally, rather than having to refer matters up the chain of command to Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park.

‘A learning organisation’

The commissioner said he wanted to create “a learning organisation, less interested in rank, more interested in outcomes, with fast-time innovation being promoted and fast-time decisions being taken at the appropriate level”.

Under the reform blueprint, the Policing Authority and Garda Síochána Inspectorate will be replaced with a new oversight body – though this measure has been criticised by some members of the authority.

Responding to some of the criticisms, the Minister said: “I am conscious of some concern that the proposals risk diluting the current level of external scrutiny.”

However he said: “I am satisfied that the proposals are a coherent response to a system of external oversight that is complex and confused and acts to the detriment of accountability on the part of individuals and the organisation itself.

“Taken as a whole, the suite of proposals will ensure the complementary objectives of strong internal governance in line with best practice and effective external oversight.”

Backing the granting of appointment powers to the commissioner and the board, Mr Flanagan said the commissioner must be “empowered to act as the CEO of the Garda Síochána”.

The Garda Commissioner and the new board of the Garda Síochána will have power to appoint senior garda officers, while changes will also be made to recruit people more widely than happens now through Templemore College.

Industrial relations

A national security co-ordinator and a strategic threat analysis centre is to be established within the department of An Taoiseach and the Garda Ombudsman (Gsoc) will be renamed and reformed.

Industrial relations will “very much” be key to his role, including negotiating pay with the Garda Representative Association and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

“I’ll get some help with that, no doubt,” he told reporters at the launch of the report at Kevin Street Garda station.

A new Policing and Community Safety Bill will be drafted to lay out the role of the Garda to include community safety and place an obligation on other State agencies to co-operate with it carrying out that function.

Mr Flanagan said the Government’s overall target of 15,000 gardaí and 4,000 garda staff by 2021 is “not only realistic but warranted”.

“Every effort must be made now to increase the focus on civilian staff within An Garda Síochána, freeing existing gardaí from what can be seen as administrative or desk duties, freeing them up to do what they’re best trained to do – and that is policing communities on the front line,” Mr Flanagan said.

Mr Harris said demands on the workforce are now “more complex” with increasing reports of crimes which are labour-intensive in terms of investigating, such as domestic violence, serious sexual assault and online crimes.

The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which was chaired by Dr Kathleen O’Toole, was established by the Government in May 2017 to undertake an examination of all aspects of policing. Its report was published last September.