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Oversight body commends gardaí for work during Covid crisis but says it'll be 'challenging' to meet targets

The Policing Authority today published its half-year report.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE GARDAÍ HAVE been noted for their “resilience, imaginative capacity and the speed” of their response to the Covid-19 crisis, but a number of concerns still remain according to the half-year assessment of its performance from the Policing Authority.

The independent body which provides oversight to An Garda Síochána said today that, overall, the policing performance of the gardaí in the first six months of 2020 was “very positive”. 

However, the Policing Authority also noted that achieving everything included in the Policing Plan for 2020 will be “challenging”, particularly with the uncertainty around how long the current health crisis will last.

It said that Operation Fanacht – which was rolled out in response to the Covid-19 restrictions – had a strong focus on community engagement.

The response from the community was “overwhelmingly positive in relation to the effort, the flexibility and the tone employed by the Garda Síochána in dealing with the public”, the Policing Authority said.

That operation from the gardaí saw them granted powers to hold checkpoints to ensure people didn’t travel further than the restrictions that were in place at the time. It also gave the gardaí powers to request that crowds disperse when gathering in numbers that exceeded the public health guidelines.

During the crisis, the Policing Authority said that the “early identification of risk around vulnerable individuals and groups, and the proactive approach adopted is to be commended”.

Separately, another positive aspect identified was the increased engagement from Operation Faoiseamh – which aims to help and support victims of domestic violence.

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It said that 82% of domestic violence victims have received contact from the gardaí within seven days of the reported incident, with 86.88% of victim assessments completed within three days of the reported incident. 

However, the Policing Authority also said it was concerned about the impact of the suspension of training on projects such as the roll-out of the domestic violence abuse risk assessment tool. 

It also expressed concerns that a costed policing plan is unlikely to be achieved this year but did highlight significant levels of success in special crime operations, particularly in the seizure of firearms and drugs.

Policing Authority chair Bob Collins said: “There is a sense in which the Garda Síochána has, through its actions and as if by accident, designed a new way of valuing itself and the community it serves. There is immense potential for a better, firmer foundation for the essential relationship between Garda and community for the future.

The Commissioner and his colleagues have set themselves a difficult challenge with the extent of the range of commitments made in the Policing Plan. Some will not be achievable however the Commissioner’s ambition in retaining focus and attention on the detailed elements in the Plan is to be commended.

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Sean Murray

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