Root-and-branch Garda reform urged in report

Management cuts needed to free up 1,000 frontline gardaí, says Garda Inspectorate

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, at a meeting before the report came out. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, at a meeting before the report came out. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins


A root-and-branch reform of the Garda Síochána is urgently required, the Garda Inspectorate has said in a major report, condemning the “minimal and often ineffective” changes made over the years.

The report urges a radical overhaul to eradicate layers of management and administration, and to free up 1,000 gardaí for frontline policing.

Entitled Changing Policing in Ireland, it was ordered by former minister for justice Alan Shatter. The report, which has not yet been published, is due to be presented to the Cabinet next week by his successor as Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald.

The Garda Inspectorate, which was set up in 2006 following the Morris tribunal into complaints against the Garda in Donegal, reviews all aspects of Garda resourcing, culture, practices and procedures, and recommends reform.

The chief inspector is Robert Olson, formerly chief of police in Minneapolis.

Garda divisions

The report, which comes 20 months after Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was appointed, calls for “a significant reduction in senior managers” and the “removal of many layers of administration and duplication”. This includes a significant rationalisation of the existing system of Garda divisions, including immediately combining the two Dublin city centre divisions.

It says these changes would result in the release of more than 1,000 gardaí for frontline policing and a transformation in the effectiveness of rural and community policing. “Placing more gardaí on the frontline will deliver a more proactive police service, focused on preventing crime. It will also provide more officers for crime investigation and ensure that more offenders are brought to justice.”

The inspectorate finds “limited evidence” the Garda has followed the reforms put in place by other police forces as they dealt with spending cuts.

‘Visible patrols’

Frontline policing has not been protected during the reduction in numbers. “There is a need to increase the number of gardaí on visible patrols.”

It finds rosters to be inefficient, with more officers working on Tuesday nights than on Saturday nights. More than a third of all Garda districts have no community officer.

The lack of strong IT services across the force is “having a negative impact on the way that resources are allocated and deployed”, including the lack of up-to-date “in-car” technologies to allow gardaí in the field to be more efficient.

A number of national specialist units are Dublin-based and Dublin-focused, and they leave stations outside the capital to investigate serious crimes such as homicides on their own.

“There is no cybercrime unit and national units do not investigate homicides,” it says. “The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are struggling to manage the volume of suspicious financial transaction reports forwarded to them as part of money laundering and terrorist financing legislation.”

It recommends a Serious and Organised Crime Unit be established to tackle organised criminal networks. Current management structures are “unclear”, it says, with “gaps between the development and implementation of policy and an absence of effective governance, leadership and intrusive supervision needed to ensure that policy aims are actually delivered.

“The current structure has also created many redundant bureaucratic practices and duplicative functions across many units.” The Garda is “unnecessarily hierarchical”, resulting in “slow decision-making on many levels . . . and long delays in progressing organisational change”.

The existing six Garda regions and 28-division structure, which has been in place since the Garda was set up, is “highly inefficient”.