Role for civilians in managing gardaí, says Policing Commission chair

Civilian experts should make up a “good portion” of a new garda management team, the head of the Policing Commission has said.

Policing Commission chair Kathleen O'Toole.

The commission chair, Kathleen O’Toole, also said it “remained to be seen” whether Government and the Department of Justice would retain ultimate control of An Garda Síochána.

The US police chief described as “totally inappropriate” statements from the Garda Representative Association that, while members “elevated” breath-test figures — under pressure, it was claimed — they did not “falsify” them.

In an interview on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ, Ms O’Toole said the commission would assist the Policing Authority and the Public Appointments Service in developing job specifications for the post of garda commissioner.

She said there was some “incredible talent” coming through the ranks and that no-one, internal or external, should be ruled out.

Ms O’Toole said that, as a police chief, previously in Boston and currently in Seattle, at least half of the people on her management team were civilians, with expertise in business, management, and leadership.

“I’m not going to speak for the commission, at this point. It’s premature. We are deliberating all of this,” she said. “I can predict capable, non-sworn managers should be a good portion of the management team at the top of the organisation.”

She said no one person can drive reform in a police organisation and that it “required a management team with policing skills and business acumen”.

Of the commission’s terms of reference, which stated that the review must have regard “to the need for democratic and political accountability”, and whether that meant government and the Department of Justice must retain ultimate control, Ms O’Toole said: “Well, that remains to be seen. We’ll certainly make recommendations.”

She said the commission met with the senior officials of the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning and that they displayed “a great appetite for reform”.

She said the commission was focusing on five areas: Recruitment, training and professional development; technology; leadership and structures; dual role of policing and security, and governance, oversight, and accountability.

She said they were looking at how the oversight bodies interact and the department’s relationship with the gardaí. She said the commission was aware of the wide range of bodies to which the gardaí were answerable and was examining how to make the system “more effective and efficient”.

Ms O’Toole said the technology available to gardaí was “generations behind”.

She said the gardaí were “very open” to embracing outside experts.

“People don’t want to be working in an organisation that’s at the top of the news every day — it’s been devastating for morale,” she said.

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