Garda Commissioner urges people to 'remain calm' as patrols increased at supermarkets

Garda Commissioner urges people to 'remain calm' as patrols increased at supermarkets

- Additional reporting by Cormac O'Keeffe

More than 300 student gardai are to be fast-tracked through their training and take to the streets to “maximise” Garda resources as the State ramps up its response to Covid-19.

More than 320 Garda students are being called up to the force help deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Garda holidays are being restricted and 210 additional vehicles are being hired to help the organisation provide policing services, while any officers due to retire in April will be offered the chance to stay on for another three months.

Gardaí said they are also going to be restricting large gatherings

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the “prudent” measures were being taken in response to the Government’s announcement on Thursday regarding closures and restrictions in relation to public gatherings.

Commissioner Harris said, despite scenes of panic buying yesterday, they do not think that will turn to looting.

He said: "People need to remain calm about the food supply and therefore then the fear of looting should not arise. We've had no looting incidents yet, no sign of looting incidents.

"People have been calm and well-mannered in terms of their shopping. We are there but that is primarily to provide reassurance and to help with traffic flow, not that we have a fear of an outbreak of disorder or indeed looting. We haven't seen that."

Speaking at Garda HQ, he said:

*Garda patrols in communities and on the street will increase generally - and not focused on supermarkets, as reported - in order to reassure people;

*Patrolling at supermarkets is to deal with “traffic flow” issues caused by the large numbers of shoppers;

*He has no other “particular concerns” with supermarkets, such as looting, but said people need to “remain calm” and that there is “no issue” with food supplies;

*Arrests will continue where necessary, but where other options – such as fines or cautions – are appropriate, they will be used;

*There are no restrictions “at this moment in time” to detective work and operations targeting serious crime and organised criminal gangs;

*It is not anticipated or considered that arrests will be carried out if people engage in mass gatherings. He said they are looking to people to behave responsibly

The Commissioner said: “As a force, An Garda Síochána is taking prudent measures to maximise our operational delivery and also providing reassurance to society, make sure we’re here to keep people safe, prevent crime but also to support other agencies in the weeks ahead.”

He said they are taking prudent measures in relation to annual leave, rosters and what they regard as non-essential tasks over these coming weeks and months

    The full raft of measures include:

  • A contingency roster will go into effect from Monday March 16th 2020
  • Annual leave for personnel will be restricted to no more than 5% of a Divisional/Bureau workforce at any given time with effect from 13 March 2020
  • Approximately 325 Garda students in the Garda College will be attested as Garda members next week and allocated to Garda stations nationally in the coming weeks (approximately 200 from one class, and 125 from the next class)
  • Garda members working as tutors/instructors in the Garda College will be deployed to operational duties or essential training services
  • Training in the Garda College will be deferred until further notice expect for specialist training activity (firearms, driver, armed support)
  • In order to enhance community support, 210 additional vehicles have been hired
  • Members of An Garda Síochána who were scheduled to avail of the severance package on 1 April 2020 have been invited to defer their retirement for three months
  • Subject to Government approval, Garda members of all ranks who have reached the compulsory retirement age can apply to remain in employment for a further 12 months subject to terms and conditions. Any Garda member who is required to retire on age ground on or before 1st June 2020 and wishes to remain in service can forward an application for the consideration of the Commissioner
  • The Commissioner has designated the ongoing situation as an "exceptional event” in accordance with the Working Time Agreement
  • Non-essential foreign travel will not be undertaken. All unnecessary large gatherings will be restricted. Only essential meetings in accordance with Government guidelines will take place with attendance limited to essential personnel only

Earlier this week, Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security established the Garda National Co-ordination Unit. Headed by a Chief Superintendent, its role is to ensure a co-ordinated approach when dealing with organisational issues with the COVID-19 virus

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