Gardaí in specialist units ‘not superior’ to local gardaí – commission

Ability to build community relationships should be rewarded with Garda promotions

Community policing should become the main service provided by the Garda to the public and not be seen as a speciality that about one in 10 gardaí are involved in, the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland has recommended.

Under what could be described as “back to basics” proposals, the commission has recommended that policing plans for districts, usually made up of three or four Garda stations, should be formulated at local level.

Senior officers in each district should have autonomy to make decisions for the good of policing in their local areas. Gardaí working in districts should build very close relationships with the community they police. And representatives of local schools, businesses and voluntary groups should all work with the force at district level to set policing priorities, the commission suggested.

“Gardaí should be assessed for their performance in this respect, and it should be a factor in determining assignments and promotions,” the commission said.


Currently in the Garda, local or community policing has been devalued and the most effective way of gaining promotion is to secure a place on a specialist unit.

However, the commission said this had to end and community policing must become the backbone of the Garda and that those in specialist units were not “superior” to officers who worked on the beat and with communities.

Organisational structure

The Garda is organised into six regions, with an assistant commissioner in charge of each. Regions are divided into divisions, each run by a chief superintendent; and divisions are divided into districts, each run by a superintendent.

Every district has a number of sub districts; usually run by a sergeant or inspector and usually with only one Garda station per sub district.

The commission said Garda divisions should be self-sufficient administrative units, with their own devolved budgets, and finance and human resources teams.

“In effect, a division should be, for most policing purposes, a mini police service in its own right,” the commission said.

However, the commission was clear that a district model of policing should define the Garda and that divisional resources and specialist units – such as the drugs squad or fraud squad – should all aid policing in districts but never consider themselves superior to local policing.

“There is an idea of what you might call ‘glamour policing’ in the sense that the young gardaí all want to work in the big well-known units that see a lot of action and get all the headlines,” said one senior officer.

“What the commission has recommended is an end to that and local policing being valued, and rewarded with promotions, just as much as the ‘action man’ policing in the big units.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times