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'It's no surprise there are shootings on our streets. There is a gaping hole in gangland intelligence'

Retired garda Trevor Laffan writes that the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana and Minister for Justice have shown little leadership.

Trevor Laffan

IF WE have learned anything from the recent violence experienced in Dublin, it’s that there has been very little leadership shown by the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana or the Minister for Justice.

Both the Commissioner and the Minister are adept at issuing mundane press statements that do little or nothing to alleviate the fears of the general public. Neither, I would imagine, do they strike any fear into the hearts of the criminal fraternity.

In the aftermath of headline incidents, we hear the usual sound bites about their determination to enforce the law and to bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice and to face the full rigours of law, etc… If this sounds familiar then it’s probably because it’s what you hear after every serious crime is committed.

Press conferences and sound bites 

The determination lasts as long as the press conference and then normal service is resumed.

In the meantime, the men and women at the coal face of fighting crime in Ireland, armed with little more than a hand held radio, are the ones responding to these serious incidents.

Dublin shootings Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

The minister has stated on numerous occasions that the gardai have adequate resources to deal with gangland crime and the Commissioner agrees with her. They are committed to providing an improved policing service to the public.

The Annual Policing Plan 2015 launched by Commissioner O’Sullivan set out the policing commitments of the service and set the priorities for An Garda Síochána as determined by the Minister for Justice and Equality under Section 20 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Some of the matters listed as priorities for An Garda Síochána for 2015 were:

  • To combat serious crime in all its forms, in particular violent crime, organisedcrime including human trafficking, and white collar crime.
  • To provide a visible policing service which meets the needs of both urban and rural communities, tackles anti-social behaviour, burglaries and drug-related crime; and ensures the public safety of our town and city centres.

The Garda Commissioner stated:

I am conscious that the close relationship we enjoy with communities across the country remains critical to our ability to prevent and tackle crime. We do not take this relationship for granted and will work to maintain and develop these strong links.Combining our community engagement and community policing philosophy with a renewed sense of public service and duty will be a priority for the entire organisation in 2015.

Dublin shootings Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

The minister and the commissioner are quick to point out that the closure of rural garda stations has not undermined policing. In fact they have argued that the rural community will somehow benefit from an improved service because of it.

Lack of resources hindering the force

They also argue that resources are not an issue and will point to the fact that several hundred trainee gardai are currently in the Garda Training College in Templemore. The reality is that they will hardly compensate for the number of those who retired over the last couple of years.

Politicians will defend the decisions they made to halt recruitment, to close garda stations and to impose the new roster system. But when you look at all these decisions taken as a whole, then it’s easy to see how they are connected and how they have all contributed to the current problems in An Garda Siochana.

Alan Shatter stated in a recent radio interview that the closure of rural garda stations released gardai who would otherwise have been tied up in keeping these small stations open.

Dublin shootings Source: Niall Carson

These stations were usually only open to the public for a few hours each morning and provided an opportunity for members of the community to collect a form, have a passport stamped, to make a complaint or simply to have a chat about something that they saw or heard. Sometimes all they wanted was some reassurance. I can speak from experience on this matter having been stationed in rural stations unlike Alan Shatter.

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In reality, the members spent most of the day working among the community, dealing with everyday issues like serving summonses, executing warrants, investigating local crimes, taking statements, investigating traffic accidents.

8/2/2016. Gangland Murders Crime Scenes Source: Sam Boal

They took an active part in normal community life, developing relationships with the locals, getting to know them and their issues while at the same time maintaining a sense of order in the locality. They built a bank of knowledge, otherwise known as intelligence.

Now that they have been deployed to larger urban centres to fill gaps in a depleted service, that source of intelligence has been lost.

So we have a force with fewer members available for general policing and the specialist units. We have closed our rural stations and deployed those gardaí to other centres. We have community gardaí being used to fill gaps elsewhere and we have less intelligence due to less community engagement.

How anybody in their right mind can say that these communities will benefit from an improved service as a result of this is beyond me.

Let’s remind ourselves what the Commissioner said, “Combining our community engagement and community policing philosophy with a renewed sense of public service and duty will be a priority for the entire organisation in 2015”.

Trevor has recently retired after 35 years service in An Garda Siochana. He previously worked with the United Nations in Cyprus as Sector Commander. He was involved in the design and implementation of the National Model of Community Policing which was designed to provide training and instruction on the introduction of community policing to all areas of the country. He was involved in a two year European project on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design which examined crime prevention initiatives across the EU and was responsible for writing the final report which he presented to the EU Commission in Brussels. He introduced an anti racism initiative in Cork City. He is currently on the board of the Chernobyl Children’s Trust. 

Read: ‘I was a garda for 35 years and I can tell you community policing has been destroyed’>

About the author:

Trevor Laffan

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