Harris quizzed on controversial Garda revamp

Harris quizzed on controversial Garda revamp
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will be under the spotlight today as he faces questions on his controversial plan to restructure the organisation and on the impact on policing arising from the €12m-plus bill attached to US presidential visits.

The Garda chief is due before the Oireachtas Justice Committee this morning.

The commissioner launched his New Operational Model last in August, involving the biggest restructuring of the Garda organisation to date.

It sees the reduction in the number of garda divisions from 28 to 19, with 18 of the current divisions being merged into nine “super divisions”.

And, in changes affecting all 19 new divisions, the local garda district will no longer be headed by a superintendent, with senior officers now working across an entire division covering specific areas, such as crime or community engagement.

All the garda associations have expressed varying degrees of concerns at the new plan, with senior local commanders objecting the most to the changes.

The Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate have backed the plan.

In his address to the Oireachtas committee today, the commissioner will say that crimes will be investigated quicker and that there will be more gardaí on the frontline.

“Our new operating model will enhance the investigation of crime through the delivery of a greater range of specialised services in local areas such as the investigation of sexual crime, domestic violence, cybercrime, and economic crime,” Mr Harris will tell committee TDs and senators.

Mr Harris is also expected to be questioned on the impact the visits this year by US president Donald Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, will have on policing services.

In his latest report to the Policing Authority, detailed in today’s Irish Examiner, the commissioner said their pay spend was €2m over budget and their overtime spend €10m in the red in large part due to the visit of President Trump.

The vice-president’s bill has not yet been factored in, but could cost up to €5m.

His report said Garda HQ has been told by the Government that the costs “must be managed” from within existing Garda budgets.

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