Review finds arrangements for public order policing are confused

Review finds arrangements for public order policing are confused

Gardaí have yet to make changes to the way they police public order incidents despite the failings highlighted by the Jobstown water protests and North Frederick Street eviction incidents.

A review by the Garda Inspectorate has found arrangements for public order policing are confused, inconsistent and informal and lack clear lines of command and responsibility.

It says there is not even a clear definition within the force of what constitutes a public order incident and that there is limited external accountability with regard to the use of force.

It recommends that 'use of force' data should be published on the Garda website with only operationally sensitive material being excluded.

An overhaul of the command structure is also called for so that one individual of assistant commissioner rank takes overall responsibility for public order policy, governance and compliance.

It also urges legislating for the routine use of bodycams by Gardai for recording public order events - a move the Justice Minister has already committed to this week.

Among the review's findings are that human rights and ethical considerations are absent from policies, procedures and guidance on public order policing.

"This has implications for the quality and consistency of this type of policing within the community. It creates a risk that a disproportionate policing response or inappropriate tactics may be employed and that in turn can impact public confidence in policing," the report says.

The review was carried out at the request of the Policing Authority in the wake of two controversial incidents.

The Jobstown water charge protests in November 2014 in which then Tánaiste Joan Burton was trapped in her car by crowds resulted in multiple serious charges being laid against demonstrators but all the defendants were either acquitted, had their cases dropped or were cleared on appeal.

Apparent Garda support for masked security men who drove housing crisis protestors out of a property in North Frederick Street last year also proved highly contentious, prompting further protests and much negative commentary.

Internal Garda reviews were carried out on those incidents but the Inspectorate's report finds: "there has been limited progress in implementing the recommendations".

It says the issue of public order policing has been on the Garda reform agenda for the last two years and it is of "particular concern" that any learning on the issue has been "ad hoc".

Review finds arrangements for public order policing are confused

Urgent attention must be given to establishing 'Strategy Threat and Risk Assessment' to keep on top of developments in Garda training and practice and emerging protester tactics, it says.

Positive findings are made about Garda appreciation of the importance of public order policing and it is noted that planned events are generally well managed with most of the weaknesses being around spontaneous incidents.

Josephine Feehily, chair of the Policing Authority, said the risk from widespread public disorder was relatively low in Ireland.

"The risk arises from inconsistent governance and application of Garda policy in this area of policing. It is an internal risk rather than one posed by the environment," she said.

She will present the report at a meeting of the Policing Authority to be attended by Commissioner Drew Harris tomorrow. The meeting is open to the public and will be live-streamed.

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