Belfast Telegraph

More gardai on front line in major shakeup announced by commissioner

Plans showed around 800 additional officers and staff would be recruited, while some 1,000 current gardai would be redeployed by 2021.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris announced the plans on Thursday (Liam McBurney/PA)
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris announced the plans on Thursday (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Major reforms to Ireland’s police force will see around 1,800 extra gardai deployed to front-line services over the next two years, according to plans unveiled by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

Around 800 additional officers and staff would be recruited, while some 1,000 current gardai would be redeployed by 2021.

The huge shakeup within the force would also create new autonomous areas of policing.

Restructuring at national, regional and locals levels would see the number of garda divisions reduced from 28 to 19 and would happen on a phased basis, according to plans unveiled on Thursday.

A chief superintendent would oversee each division and would be given more powers and independence from garda headquarters.

Regions and divisions would have greater control and would focus more on localised, community-based policing.

The changes were expected to see more supervision, better resources, less paperwork, and more career opportunities for members and staff.

All of this is directed towards applying more of our resources to the policing service we provide in preventing, detecting crime and preventing harm Drew Harris, Garda Commissioner

“This is a very important day for An Garda Siochana, but more importantly a very important day for the people of Ireland,” the commissioner said.

“Today we are setting out one of the big steps in providing a policing service for the future. This is the operating model which we will apply to divisional structure across the whole of Ireland.

“We will move to 19 divisions and in doing so we will create divisions which will be in effect operationally autonomous, they’ll be able to do the vast majority of the policing issues that they face but they will do so in a corporate framework, and they will do so in a way which is bespoke to the local communities which they provide increasing service.”

He continued: “But even beyond that, in doing this work and moving to this new divisional structure, we are also reducing the administration and bureaucracy within An Garda Siochana and freeing up resources.

“All of this is directed towards applying more of our resources to the policing service we provide in preventing, detecting crime and preventing harm.”

He went on to say that the changes would allow the force to focus on areas including the National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB), as well as enhancing its cybercrime capability.

(The reforms) will result in more front-line leadership positions with sergeants and inspectors on the ground where leadership, supervision and mentoring is crucial Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Justice and Equality

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) general secretary Pat Ennis said the proposed changes could have a “significant effect” on its members’ working lives and lines of management accountability.

He said the association’s executive committee would analyse and consider the proposals.

Mr Ennis said: “I met with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris yesterday (Wednesday) and he assured me the plan published is not necessarily the last word on this issue and that the views of the GRA and others will be considered.

“Our Central Executive Committee can analyse the proposals and consider a response when it convenes next month.

“If the commitment in the operating model to provide enhanced policing capabilities and support at local and regional level is delivered, then we would welcome the increased safety and welfare of our members.

“This would also enable us to provide a better service to the public.”

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan said the new plans were designed to reduce bureaucracy and move power and decision-making to the garda divisions.

He added: “Importantly, it will also result in more front-line leadership positions with sergeants and inspectors on the ground where leadership, supervision and mentoring is crucial.”

The Garda Inspectorate said it welcomed the restructuring saying that rationalising the number of divisions would create “significant benefits”.

“It provides an opportunity to reduce the number of people working in back office support functions as well as reducing management and administrative overheads,” Chief Inspector Mark Toland said.

PA

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