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Gardaí contact Twitter and Data Protection Commissioner over videos of officers being abused at Covid checkpoints

A number of videos have been posted online in the last month.
May 14th 2020, 12:05 AM 50,625 41

GARDA MANAGEMENT HAS written to the Data Protection Commissioner as well as several social media companies over online videos showing garda members being verbally abused while carrying out their duties.

In recent weeks, a number of videos of officers interacting with members of the public have been widely shared online. Most of the videos have been recorded by people expressing wishes for the pandemic restrictions to be lifted.

In several cases, the names and shoulder numbers of gardaí have been broadcast, with abuse then directed toward them on social media. 

TheJournal.ie understands that at least two members of the force have inquired about the possibility of involving the Data Protection Commissioner about their rights and if any action can be taken. 

In response to our queries regarding the filming of police officers and the negative abuse which they have received, the Garda Press Office confirmed that management has been in contact with social media companies, as well as the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Garda unions – the GRA and AGSI – are also aware of the videos and are offering advice to the gardaí involved. 

The AGSI said it has written to the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about the videos. 

Remarking on the detail of one video shared late last month, the AGSI’s general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said: “It is totally unacceptable and we condemn this behaviour in the strongest possible terms. The threatening and abusive behaviour the Garda Sergeant was subjected to, crossed the line of acceptable questioning of our role in this public health crisis.”

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, gardaí said it has engaged with social media companies to “review” videos which had appeared online.

Gardaí also confirmed it has sought the advice of the Data Protection Commissioner. 

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The statement reads: “The Health and Safety of all members of An Garda Síochána is of paramount importance to senior Garda management. 

An Garda Síochána perform our duties in public and are open to public scrutiny.  Formal oversight is provided by a number of statutory bodies, in particular, the Policing Authority and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. 

A member of the public who is aggrieved by the individual actions of a member of An Garda Síochána is entitled to make a formal complaint to Gsoc.

An Garda Síochána, as any individual or organisation can, has engaged with certain social media companies and requested they review certain material, where members of An Garda Síochána were verbally abused for merely carrying out their duties, in line with their stated rules and policies.  Any decision is a matter for the social media company. An Garda Síochána has sought advice from the Data Protection Commissioner.

Twitter said that it could not comment when asked for a statement about the videos. Instead, we were directed to a Twitter support page for law enforcement.

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Garreth MacNamee

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