Rooting out 'bad apples' may not improve Garda standards, says report


GREATER REGULATION of the Garda may not help improve standards, a new report from the Government’s economic and social advisory body has found.

The National Economic and Social Council report, Policing and the Search for Continuous Improvement, said that despite the emergence of several bodies concerned with the regulation of the Garda, their overall effect was not clear.

Improving quality and standards in policing was often thought to involve a “strong regulator” rooting out “bad apples”, the report said.

However, it argued that quality was often achieved by regulators “stimulating” those they supervised to self-regulate and evaluate, and “enlisting third parties to add moral pressure and insight to this process”.

Each of the institutions currently regulating An Garda Síochána focuses on one particular aspect of policing: the ombudsman commission broadly on abuses of authority; the inspectorate on poor management processes; the Garda Professional Standards Unit on operational and administrative issues; and the Joint Policing Committees and Local Policing Fora on standards of policing within localities and neighbourhoods.

“It is difficult to gauge whether the establishment of these bodies has led to an overall level of improvement in the quality of policing,” the report said, as they had yet to set up procedures that would sustain reform over time.

This meant it was hard to gauge if there was a better way of policing as gardaí did not have sufficient diagnostic tools to enable them to analyse their service in a manner which would facilitate improvement.

Report author Dr Barry Vaughan said the State had all the parts necessary for a well-functioning system of quality policing but these parts had yet to be connected in a way that would embed quality within policing.

“The . . . oversight organisations could complement each other more by examining systemic causes of complaints and serious harms; and Garda management could regularly compare local policing initiatives and encourage improvements in some in light of best practice,” he said.

“Constructing such a system would help to prevent abuses of authority, as well as meeting the policing needs of communities.”