Patrol cars a priority over internet, say senior gardaí

Senior gardaí have called for patrol cars to be made a priority over internet access for officers.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) said the Government should look at reversing plans to cut the fleet by 385 despite concerns 282 of 703 stations have no internet or secure email.

Agsi deputy general secretary John Redmond said the focus should be on keeping the force mobile.

"Given the financial situation and reducing budgets we are not going to bang the drum on this. We can manage with what we have," Mr Redmond said.

"I think we can pretty much do what we need to do with regard to access to information with what we have.

"To us the priority now would be the essential tools to carry out the functions of policing - the patrol car is as essential as pen and paper. That's what we want to see dealt with."

The Department of Justice revealed 40% of the Garda station network has no internet, prompting severe criticism from Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary.

Over the last few years every member has been issued with a garda email which can only be accessed in a networked station securely linked to the Pulse computer system. Dozens of officers can only log on at their nearest networked station.

The force is in the process of cutting 286 cars, nine four-by-fours, 36 vans, 51 bicycles and a number of other miscellaneous vehicles from the fleet this year. On top of that 31 stations will be closed and another eight non-operational stations will not reopen.

Mr Redmond said gardaí were satisfied with the modern radio system they use and in an ideal world they would want every officer or car equipped with a secure mobile device to access garda databases.

But Mr Redmond added: "The reality is that it's going to be quieter stations with no internet, probably not open 24 hours a day, not as busy, but we need to be practical, the priority must be patrol cars."

Mr Calleary, Fianna Fáil's Justice Spokesman, claimed it was absurd that basic office needs were not being met in the force.

A statement from the Department of Justice said: "The provision of information technology facilities is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner.

"This was the position throughout 14 years of continuous Fianna Fáil-led Government and remains the position today as it is right that operational decisions are made by the Garda Commissioner and not the Minister for Justice.

"It is extraordinary that Deputy Dara Calleary does not acknowledge or understand this."

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