Policing Covid-19 will hit Garda budget hard, Commissioner warns

Policing Covid-19 will hit Garda budget hard, Commissioner warns

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said policing the Covid-19 crisis will make it a “very challenging financial year” for his organisation.

After a very difficult 2019 in terms of unanticipated demands on policing and Garda overtime — including two US presidential visits — the commissioner has flagged continuing dangers of overspend for 2020.

In his most recent report to the Policing Authority, Commissioner Harris said that the recent visit of the UK’s Prince William and Kate Middleton at the beginning of March is expected to cost the force €1.3m — money not factored into its budget for the year.

“This country and its people face an incredible challenge in Covid-19,” the commissioner said in his March report.

“The primary responsibility for An Garda Síochána remains to continue to provide a policing service to the community, in whatever way possible, ensuring the safety of those most vulnerable in our community.”

But his report said this would come at a significant financial cost to the organisation, one not factored into its funding for 2020.

The report said expenditure on overtime for the year to date was €15.2m, which was €460,000 (or 3%) in excess of the budget.

"The visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from March 3-5 will place significant pressure on the Vote and specifically on the overtime and travel and subsistence budgets, with an estimated cost of €1.3m,” it said.

“As it will be a very challenging financial year, including the unprecedented demands placed upon the Garda Vote as a result of Covid-19, all budget holders have been advised that they must keep within their allocations for their current policing plans.”

The report also detailed use of force by gardaí over January and February this year, an area on which there has been limited statistics.

The analysis, covering use of batons, incapacitant sprays, tasers, and firearms, shows there was a total of 136 incidents in January and 84 in February.

It said that given the relatively low numbers, one incident, which could involve use of force on a number of people, could bring a Garda division into the upper levels of force when traditionally there was relatively low use there.

The report said analysis over longer periods will give a better insight and it also said usage fell by 21 in the Dublin region and that use of incapacitant sprays was down by 45 discharges in February, compared to January.

It said baton and taser usage increased slightly over the months.

The report said there was a 4% rise in incidents in both apartments and houses, with incidents in public areas down 5%.

It said there was a 7% decrease in the use of force in dealing with public-order offences, but a 4% rise in domestic-related offences. Use of force in theft and firearm incidents fell by 3% and 2% respectively.

Dublin South Central had the highest use of force, with Dublin North Central and Waterford increasing significantly over the months.

Policing Covid-19 will hit Garda budget hard, Commissioner warns

Separately, the report details an incident in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, between February 19-22, in which a 16-year-old male, suffering from mental health issues, barricaded himself into the family home where he had access to three legally held firearms and ammunition.

It was brought to a successful conclusion in an operation involving local and national uniform and specialist units as well as psychiatrists from the Central Mental Hospital and Tusla Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

    Useful information
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  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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