Robocop? Not quite, but high-tech gardaí are on the way

Force’s modernisation plan hopes to make up for recent stymied technology investment

‘You have 20 seconds to comply...’

‘You have 20 seconds to comply...’


Ireland’s garda of the future will receive “a wealth of real-time data” every minute they are on duty, including real-time updates of crimes and incidents as they patrol.

For years, gardaí have struggled with ancient computer systems that still leaves many, or most even without an official Garda email address, let alone a link to high-tech systems.

Now, however, Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan is promising the era of “the connected garda” who patrol Irish streets with a mobile device tracking real-time data.

Facial recognition software will be used by 2019 to identify criminals from CCTV images , while statements could be taken on video at crime scenes to cope with situations where witnesses are later reluctant to give testimony.

A new computer dispatch will ensure quicker response times to calls from the public by September 2019, ensuring a “more efficient allocation of resources to ensure the right people are in the right places at the right times”.

Launched yesterday, the Garda Siochána’s Modernisation and Renewal strategy pledges to bring the handling of investigations into organised crime, traffic, etc., out of the past.

From the minute they will begin their shift, gardaí will be plugged into the Garda Information System and a “wealth of real-time data”, the Commissioner promises.

Mobile data will be available immediately they leave the station. Throughout their shift they will receive real-time updates on reported crimes and whether there is a need to adjust patrolling patterns.

Unlike the paper trial of today, the mobile devices to be supplied will contain everything they need at their fingertips from outstanding warrants to vehicle registrations.

“As they are permanently connected, supervisors will know exactly where the garda is in case they require additional support,” the document says.


The system will also allow them update information as they go to cut down on time spent filling out paperwork at the end of shifts.

This near-utopian vision depends on an ongoing process of updating various information systems - anticipated from next year - and is part of a recognised need to improve its overall technology.

“The reality is that ... An Garda Siochána has some ICT (information and communications technology) systems that are 20 years out of date,” the report says.

A key change is a forthcoming system designed to monitor investigations from when a crime is reported right through to a court case. It will include systematic cataloguing of evidence and the electronic management of files.

Challenges are posed by the “increasing sophistication of criminals and criminal networks”.

The new Economic Crime Bureau will have advanced technologies to help officers “follow the money”.

New technologies that allow “face in the crowd” and “shape in the crowd” recognition using biometrics to identify targets will begin to be installed in 2017 and complete by 2019.

Outside expertise will form a strand of how policing technology develops.

There is a a backlog of cases at the Computer Crime Investigation Unit (CCIU) which typically deals with cases of computer-based fraud, online paedophilia and illegal trade on the Darknet.

The CCIU will now be restructured into two units - one dealing with cyber crime, the other with forensic examinations of machines - and it will work with the FBI, a leader in the area.

Criminal information

In an increasingly digital world, the amount of information generated by criminal organisations is growing.

“This includes information available through open sources and digital platforms. We will develop DIGINT (digital intelligence) capability and the appropriate structures, systems and processes to make best use of this information and integrate it into analytical product that informs intelligence, threat and risk assessments,” the report says.

The interpretation of data requires analysts, a number of whom have been employed by garda in recent times and that investment is set to continue.

Investment is also targeted at cyber security and gardai plan to set up a National Cyber Security Desk which will liaise with Europol, Interpol and other agencies.

Even in the traffic division, technological advancement will be the focus of future policing.

There will be an expansion of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology with cameras on garda cars able to read plates and check them against “watch lists” of stolen or untaxed vehicles.

“The number of ANPR units will also be expanded in 2016 with all units being 3G enabled to give gardai real-time information on suspect vehicles,” the report says.

Gardai are now attempting to get access to data from ANPR systems owned by the National Roads Authority (NRA), port authorities, councils and private car park operators.