A specialist Garda hate crimes division should be set up to improve the reporting of offences and the quality of investigations, according to a submission to the Policing Commission.
The submission calls for the Garda Racial, Intercultural, and Diversity Office to be scrapped, saying it has “limited resources and expertise”.
The submission was made jointly by the European Network Against Racism Ireland, which incorporates 80 non-governmental organisations, and Lucy Michael, a lecturer in sociology at Ulster University.
It says that there needs to be a National Action Plan Against Racism as well as an independent National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism. The submission repeated calls for hate crime legislation, but said gardaí could use the existing laws more effectively. It said they have identified what they claim to be “patterns of systematic failure” in the gardaí.
These include: Refusal to advise or act in cases of racist crime; refusal to speak to perpetrators; hostile treatment of witnesses; failure to collect relevant evidence; failure to provide information to victims; a lack of expertise and limited training and resourcing of local ethnic liaison officers.
It said the establishment of the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office originally had signalled a commitment by gardaí to address needs and concerns of ethnic minority and migrant communities.
It said while the organisation, under the aegis of the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office, trains members as part-time local ethnic liaison officers, the force is overly reliant on a small number of such gardaí.
It said the referral of racist incidents to the office relegates the police response “into a silo, away from mainstream policing”. It called for the abolition of the office.
It said professionally trained and sworn diversity officers are needed in each district, overseen by full-time diversity and hate crime experts.
The submission calls for these experts to be part of a new Hate Crimes Division within the Garda National Protective Services Bureau. These hate crime officers should be replicated in divisional bureau units.
At the last Policing Authority meeting, assistant commissioner Pat Leahy said there is a need for a “far more structured approach” towards diversity and “real resources”.
The Garda’s top statistician Gurchand Singh said he is not hugely confident of its hate crime statistics but that they are working on it.
Gardaí recorded 323 hate crimes in 2017, compared to 290 in 2016 and 162 in 2015.