Giving policing desk duties to civilians would ‘free up’ 300 gardaí

Garda manpower being absorbed by duplicated roles, says head of Garda Inspectorate

Chief Inspector Bob Olsen of the Garda inspectorate addressing the Agsi conference. Photograph: Paul Mealey

Chief Inspector Bob Olsen of the Garda inspectorate addressing the Agsi conference. Photograph: Paul Mealey

 

About 300 Garda members could be immediately released from desk-bound jobs and allowed to join their colleagues policing the streets if their posts were civilianised, the chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate Bob Olson has said.

He pointed out the gardai filling these posts were in receipt of clerical allowances because of the jobs they did.

His comments come just days after it emerged the Government has proposed streamlining the way Garda members are paid by abolishing some allowances and amalgamating them into a more straightforward shift payment.

Mr Olson also said many other gardai could be freed up for frontline duties if some administrative functions in Garda divisions were amalgamated.

Under the present staffing structure he believed some roles had been duplicated, which was absorbing Garda manpower at a time of great pressure for the force.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has previouslyquestioned assertions by the inspectorate that over 1,000 posts in the Garda could be filled by civilians, thus freeing up huge numbers of gardai for policing on the streets.

However, Mr Olson reiterated his belief, outlined in a report from the Garda Inspectorate late last year, when addressing the annual delegate conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) in Westport, Co Mayo.

“That report was given to the gardaí in December but I’m not surprised that we’ve not yet received a response,” he said, adding the posts recommended for civilianisation were not security-sensitive.

Mr Olson accepted the Garda needed time to consider the report’s findings and follow a “certainprocess” before making a decision. That form of deliberating by the force “was part of a culture stretching back over several decades”.

Speaking at a Garda passing out ceremony in the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, last month Commissioner O’Sullivan stopped short of challenging the inspectorate’s findings that more than 1,000 posts could be civilianised. But she said she had sought clarification around how that proposal could be put into practice. She also noted at that time that since 2009 there had been 41 reports produced on foot of inquiries into and studies of the Garda force, involving more than 700 recommendations. And she reiterated those comments at the Agsi conference when she addressed delegates on Tuesday.

Mr Olson told the media at the conference he believed the duties of Garda inspectors and superintendents needed to be re-evaluated, suggesting they were currently busy with too many minor matters.

These included drawing up annual leave rosters or appearing in court to prosecute cases, a role he said should be assumed by DPP staff. If these tasks were taken on by others, the superintendents and inspectors would be free to supervise teams of personnel on the streets.