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Great expectations

We asked gardaí what they want from their new boss - here's what they said

It was announced during the week that the recruitment process to fill the post has officially begun.

Niall Carson Niall Carson

IT WAS ANNOUNCED this week that the search for a new Garda Commissioner has officially begun.

An open recruitment process to fill the post has commenced and a new commissioner is expected to be appointed by the end of the year with the net being cast worldwide – not just within the force.

We asked a number of gardaí on the ground how they’re feeling about the appointment and what their briefs would be for their new boss. Here’s what they told us:

Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

What are you expecting from the new Commissioner?

That they report truthfully and honestly to the government and to the media in relation to the actual crime figures and not use massaged figures by district officers – who are looking for promotion themselves – just to make crime trends look good.

Also the true effect of station closures in rural communities and not just saying what the minister wants to hear. I hope they stand independent of the minister and represent the true picture of the state of the force’s inability to provide a proper police service to the public due to a lack to manpower on the frontline, lack of patrol cars, motorbikes equipment etc.

I expect them to listen to members of garda rank who are actually on the frontline and not just go on the research of members in Garda HQ in the Phoinex Park who are not familiar with what actually happens on the frontline because they have not worked on the frontline in a long time. The Commissioner is the employer and should fight for more resources, better pay and conditions for their staff and do what they can to boost morale.

Adequately deal with managers who are not able to fulfilling their role in and let the blame always fall on the member of garda rank on the frontline, even though he would have other ranks over him, and review the whole promotion system. Move away from the direction the force is going with more and more garda members office bound and less and less members on the frontline, patrolling, preventing and investigating crime.

Should they come from inside or outside the force?

I think a Commissioner who worked as a garda previously would have a much greater understanding of how the force operates – one that did actual garda policing and not one that was office bound for most of their service.

We have already seen the consequences of external people making analysis of the work we do without having a proper understanding of how policing works in Ireland. This in the form of GSOC and the Garda Inspectorate who are recruited from abroad. Regularly during GSOC interviews, the garda has to explain to the GSOC investigator as how the arrest / detention procedure works.

An Garda Síochána An Garda Síochána

What are you expecting from the new Commissioner?

Just that they keep dialogue going between themselves and the representative groups and that any concerns or issues are addressed.

Should they come from inside or outside the force?

An outside appointment is not a huge issue, more that the system that’s in place for promotion at every level should have more transparency. Regarding the [interim] Commissioner, she seems to have the backing of the GRA and wants to work with them and members on the ground to try to rebuild trust between management and frontline staff.

An Garda Síochána An Garda Síochána

What are you expecting from the new Commissioner?

I would hope that the new Commissioner wouldn’t get blinded by the overwhelming desire to be seen to be making a lot of changes or have a view that they need to do so in the fastest possible timeframe. There are some significant changes needed in some areas of policy, procedure and indeed culture but in the main a lot can be achieved in other areas with just minor fine-tuning.

The garda organisation has been under severe pressure for results for a good number of years with government naturally wanting good PR as regards solving crime. In an era of dwindling resources, constantly reducing manpower and serious under-funding  corners were bound to be cut, shortcuts taken resulting in standards slipping and the ball being dropped on occasions as regards delivery of the best service possible.

Government accepted a good number of years ago that for every extra euro spent assisting Revenue commissioners and social welfare inspectors doing their job, there was often a four-fold return on the investment through crack down on tax evasion or fraud. It’s a similar scenario with policing and crime.

Rather than all the financial cuts, you have to invest in putting extra feet on the street through returning manpower numbers to close to what they were. For every euro you cut the policing budget then the business sector and the private citizen ends up paying in other ways.

Should they come from inside or outside the force?

I think it should be someone from inside the force. It is one thing to recommend seismic change but another to attempt it by also decapitating the leadership. It also sends out a signal that the gardaí can’t be trusted to do what’s best or that they are rotten to the core. I believe that change from within could be better driven by someone with experience of policing garda style which in the main is community centred and progressed through the co-operation of the public.
Policing is not the same the world over and the best candidate for the recent top job in the PSNI turned out to be the internal candidate. I believe that promoting an internal candidate would receive the best buy-in from the workforce and government have proposed plenty of checks and balances regarding oversight that would ensure more openness and transparency.

An Garda Síochána An Garda Síochána

What are you expecting from the new Commissioner?

Some backing from management to start, followed by equipment and thirdly a better system of selection for promotion.

Should they come from inside or outside the force?

If a Commissioner is appointed from the current lot I don’t think things will change much. I really hope an outside one is appointed due to the current system of promotion and the fact the political input into promotion means a lot of competent members don’t get promoted.

An outside Commissioner might oppose such an input and promote within their qualified area and also fight for better equipment and vehicles. A lot needs to be done and it won’t change if an insider is selected.

Read: Time to spruce up your CV: The search for a new Garda Commissioner has started>

Commissioner: The guards are damaged and hurting – but we aren’t broken>

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