Communities want gardaí to be more community based
Commission on the Future of Policing told of need for more Garda training and empathy
Commission is engaged on a series of public meetings across the State to gather views on how members of the population interact with the Garda. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
The low level of Garda recruitment from minorities and inner city communities shows a disconnect between the force and the people it polices, a meeting has heard.
A range of speakers at a public forum in Dublin, organised by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, called for reform of Garda training, with greater emphasis on specialisation, empathy, community policing and individual gardaí living among the community they police.
The commission is engaged on a series of public meetings across the State to gather views on how members of the population interact with the Garda.
Travellers’ rights worker Thomas McCann said there were just three Traveller members of the Garda. He said there was a significant level of distrust “on the Travellers side anyway” as a large majority of the community felt discriminated against by gardaí.
Dublin City Councillor Larry O’Toole said that in his north inner city parish, he could only remember three people ever applying for recruitment to the Garda. He said the Garda “need to improve their customer service”.
Gillian Brien of youth support group BeLonG To said her organisation interacted with up to 1,000 LGBT people a week and they would be much happier reporting hate crime if they had had some empathy from a community garda.
Niall Garvey, chief executive of the Muintir na Tíre organisation said community alert schemes based on texts were working well in rural areas. However, he said there was “ a disengagement with the Garda not living in the areas”.
Ronnie Owens from the North Meath Community Development Association called for a mandatory driving ban on all criminals caught moving around the country to rob people, “for the drivers and everyone in the car”, as well as a mandatory suspension of passports for those convicted of organised crime. He also called for electronic tagging of repeat offenders.
Dr Cliona Loughnane of the National Women’s Council told the Wood Quay meeting that new divisional protective services units, part of the Garda modernisation and renewal programme, was an initiative that was making a difference in relation to violence against women.
Monday night’s meeting at the Wood Quay venue was the first Dublin meeting with others planned for Tallaght and Blanchardstown this week.