A European-style police uniform — typified by a baseball hat, polo shirt, and heavy-duty boots — should be examined in the current root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána, according to the force’s biggest staff body.
The Garda Representative Association said this would mean replacing the traditional formal Garda uniform, which has a necktie and shirt and traditional police cap, with a more operational-style outfit.
“Overall, a meaningful debate should now begin as to whether the intention of Garda uniform is to purvey an image of smartness and authority as a symbol of modern Ireland with cap, necktie and black shoes — or a fully functional operational outfit combining high-visibility, anti-stab protection and heavy-duty boots for outdoor duty,” said GRA general secretary PJ Stone.
“Common sense would suggest the latter version would dispense with the necktie and shirt to be replaced with a liveried polo-style T-shirt; replacing the Garda cap with a baseball-style that can be more easily stored and carried.”
Such uniforms are often worn by squads such as the Garda Dog Unit. Writing in the Garda Review, the official GRA journal, Mr Stone said that the uniform needed to be examined as part of the “root-and-branch” review of the force, directed under the Haddington Road Agreement.
Mr Stone referred to the famous declaration of Justice Minister Michael McDowell, in an interview with the Irish Examiner in July 2002, that he was against a “Robocop” uniform.
He made the comment following calls from Garda associations for more protective equipment, such as anti-stab vests, sprays and modern batons, to deal with violent assaults.
Mr Stone said that following a serious stabbing of two gardaí — Garda David Comer and Garda James Hendricks — in July 2005, anti-stab vests were belatedly introduced and become routinely worn on patrol.
But the GRA boss said members often say the vest is uncomfortable when worn with a necktie, particularly in a patrol vehicle.
Mr Stone asked why was there a need to retain the formal Garda uniform, which members have to wear at formal events and occasions.
“That alone suggests that the formal uniform is slowly being consigned to that of a ceremonial function.”
The general secretary said the current uniform is a hybrid between the two extremes and fails to fulfil either aim. “The Garda budget for policing has been severely depleted, and pragmatically, now is not the time anyone in authority is likely to seek investment in the roll-out of new uniform and replacement uniform; but it is timely the debate commences and is pursued.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved