Garda tender specified ability to record calls
Tender document stipulated necessity to store data and facility for ‘instant playback’
It was not stipulated for how long recordings would be automatically archived. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
The Garda put out to open tender in 2008 a contract to install the technology under which a now contentious system of recording calls to and from stations across the country was run.
The specifications sought a new “digital logging recording system” that would be compatible with the older analog and digital communications systems in use across the force for years.
The tender document stipulated the new infrastructure must record communications – including 999 calls, among others – and then store them to facilitate “instant playback”.
The tender also stipulated the company that won the contract would supply all software and hardware for the system, would also fully install it and train Garda personnel to use it. Computers and any necessary accessories to allow playback or copy of recordings were also to be provided, as was the software to back up the archive material.
It was not stipulated how long recordings would be automatically archived for but in other recording technology for Garda call centre-style facilities, all recordings have in the past been archived for 6½ years.
Of the 20 facilities where the technology was to be installed, the Garda’s Dublin metropolitan headquarters at Harcourt Square, south Dublin, was to receive the largest number of channels at 64.
A number of specialist Garda units are based there, including the Criminal Assets Bureau, Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Organised Crime Unit and Special Detective Unit.
However, the large number of channels in Harcourt Square could be used to monitor the network of telephone lines across all stations in Dublin and not simply the lines in Harcourt Square.
The next largest number of channels installed in any other station was Anglesea Street in Cork, which had 24 and is the headquarters of the Cork City division.
The remaining stations, all divisional headquarters at the time, all had eight channels installed.
Mr Shatter revealed during his Dáil address yesterday that the equipment installed in 2008 was of the NICE brand.
The international company is listed on the Nasdaq and describes itself as the world leader in analysing and capturing online, audio, video and radio transactions and interactions.
Its security section specialises in providing technology to emergency service agencies worldwide. As well as the Garda, it counts the New York police department among its clients.
Other organisations or facilities it provides security technology to include Miami Dade police department, Dallas International Airport, the Beijing Metro and the Eiffel Tower.
It offers what it calls an “audio logging” service, or recording systems, for “public safety organisations”.
Its call recording system has been designed for control-room scenarios and captures a number of audio formats including digital telephony, analog and “voice over internet protocol”, which is a group of technologies that uses internet networks to deliver voice and multimedia protocols.
The fact its systems could integrate with a number of older audio forms suited the Garda, whose recording systems varied from station to station in 2008 when the current NICE system was put in place.
The company makes no secret of the fact that one of its main uses is to record calls coming into and going out from police stations.
The tender documentation drawn up by the Garda in 2008 clearly stated it was seeking a system that could perform that function, even listing the stations where this would occur.
However, one feature at issue with the Garda’s use of the same technology is if it was used covertly – without the knowledge of the public or most gardaí.
Of perhaps most importance is whether the recording kit was being used when suspects were calling solicitors to speak privately about crimes they were accused of for the purpose of getting legal advice.
Other police forces have also been open about the fact they use the same technology, but mainly to provide the best emergency call service.
Stations upgraded with digital logging recording following 2008 tender:
Harcourt Square, Dublin
Anglesea Street, Cork
Henry Street, Limerick
Mill Street, Galway
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Naas, Co Kildare
Portlaoise, Co Laois
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Tralee, Co Kerry