Taser stun guns should be available more widely to respond to the estimated 1,000 attacks carried out on gardaí each year, the Garda Representative Association has said.
Association president John Parker believed the issue of violence against rank-and-file gardaí needed to be more urgently addressed than ever as numbers in the force continued to reduce, leaving gardaí on the beat more isolated and vulnerable.
“Our members have to deal with intensely stressful situations,” he said. “You’re standing outside a nightclub and there’s 400 or 500 people coming out and you’re the guard – not one of the guards, but the guard – minding that corner. We expect to have the resources to back up, to cope with that situation when it does get out of hand.”
While such gardaí could call on colleagues in patrol cars for back-up and armed units provided a higher level of protection when required, greater availability of Taser stun guns should be at least trialled.
"Okay, you needn't issue them on a widespread basis to every officer because it would be cost prohibitive," he said at the opening of the association's annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, last night.
"But there should be a situation where particular units across every division in the country would have a Taser-equipped officer. We shouldn't have to depend on our regional support units which are armed units not available 24/7."
Mr Parker said Garda members trained in the use of a Taser could be available locally and more quickly to deal with situations that rapidly escalated.
Deputy general secretary John Healy said the level of violence against gardaí was only becoming clear because since last October the definition of an attack on gardaí had changed.
To that point, only those incidents notified to the Health and Safety Authority were officially recorded as attacks. However, the threshold was now lower to include, for example, cases of gardaí being spat at. While a full set of figures for a 12-month period were not yet available, the level of violence over a year could be determined based on monthly averages to date. Mr Healy said: “It would appear that between 950 and 1,000 guards are assaulted per annum compared to 400 to 425 previously.”
Mr Parker said the association had decided against extending an invitation to attend to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter because nothing had changed since last year when it voted no confidence in him and decided not to invite him to its 2013 conference.