Police corruption and reform high on conference agenda

POLICE corruption will be one of the issues high on the agenda when delegates from forces around the world gather in Limerick today to share their experiences and methods in tacking crime.

Kathleen O’Toole, who heads the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, is among the speakers but one academic will argue that the Garda “is one of the most secretive police forces in the western world”.

The Centre for Criminal Justice at the University of Limerick is hosting the conference with the theme Police Governance and Accountability: Developments, Challenges and Outlook.

Professor Paul McCutcheon of UL said: “This conference represents an important stage in the development of police studies in Ireland. It brings together scholars from around the world to share the fruits of their research and at the same time to learn from the work of their Irish counterparts.

“It is fitting that this conference is hosted by the University of Limerick. Under the leadership of Professor Dermot Walsh, a world renowned authority on policing and criminal justice, the Centre for Criminal Justice and the School of Law has established a well-deserved reputation as a centre for excellence in the field.

“It aims to identify transferable strategies and processes that might be deployed to promote transparency, fairness and efficiency in combating police corruption and abuse and to mainstream human rights standards in police governance and accountability.”

Prof Walsh, director of UL’s Centre for Criminal Justice, and Dr Vicky Conway from Queen’s University Belfast, will deliver a joint paper on Garda corruption and reform.

Prof Walsh said: “It is still the case, for example, that standing orders covering all aspects of Garda management and practices are not publicly accessible. The same applies to the existence and contents of Garda policies. For as long as such basic information is kept secret, transparent governance and accountability will remain elusive and the Garda will continue to be one of the most secretive police forces in the Western world.”

Ms O’Toole, meanwhile, along with Justin Abold from Oxford University, will deliver a session entitled An Garda Síochána Inspectorate — A Work in Progress.

Police complaints will be discussed in two sessions which will be addressed by Ian Todd, director, Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland, Kieran Fitzgerald of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and Steve Savage from the University of Portsmouth.

Former journalist and UL lecturer Dr Michael Mulqueen will present a paper entitled, Nail the crime gang bosses: State security and its risks to police accountability in Ireland. Speaking in advance of the conference, Mr Mulqueen said: “Recent Irish Government rhetoric and legislation equates serious organised crime with terrorism and other threats to the security of the state. Immigration control has also, since 2001, been treated in Ireland as a national security issue. This creeping securitisation, however, justified by available intelligence, puts at risk fundamental human rights.”

The future of policing in the wake of new technologies will be explored in a session entitled Policing and New Technologies. The session will cover topics such as controversies in forensic evidence; challenges in public surveillance; DNA profiling; mass screening and crime mapping.

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