Rise in use of pepper spray by gardaí

Rise in use of pepper spray by gardaí

Gardaí used pepper sprays almost 690 times in 2018, official figures reveal.

Statistics provided by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan show the incapacitant spray was used 687 times last year, up 30 on 2017.

Tasers were used 31 times in 2018, compared to 34 in 2017 and firearms were discharged on four occasions, compared to six in 2017.

While pepper sprays are provided to all gardaí, the stun gun is only provided to certain specialist squads, such as the Emergency Response Unit and the regional Armed Support Units.

The largest garda staff body, the Garda Representative Association, has repeatedly called for Tasers for frontline members, to protect them from potentially violent incidents.

Figures show that 635 members were injured on duty in 2017, and 664 in 2016.

Responding to a parliamentary question from Independent Tommy Broughan TD, Mr Flanagan said that under a 2010 Garda HQ directive, gardaí are required to inform the Garda Ombudsman of the discharge of a firearm or the use of a less than lethal weapon within 48 hours of the event occurring.

The official figures show that:

  • Pepper spray was used 657 times in 2017, 687 in 2018 and 257 so far in 2019;
  • Tasers were used in 34 incidents in 2017, 31 in 2018 and eight so far this year;
  • Firearms were discharged six times in 2017, four in 2018 and one so far in 2019
  • GRA president, Jim Mulligan, said: “When we called for more armed support for our members at our annual conference this year, we pointed out that gardaí are highly responsible about their use of force.

    These figures back-up our view. Our call for increased deployment of specialist, tactically trained and armed members as a visible support to unarmed frontline officers, is principally about deterrence – as well as protection of our members.

    He said they are strongly of the view the organisation should remain a generally unarmed organisation: “The figures for Taser-use show they are a preferred and effective alternative to the use of lethal force, which is one of the reasons why we have been calling for the wider issue of these devices to our members."

    A report by the Irish Council of Civil Liberties last October said the rate of use of pepper spray by gardaí “certainly appears to be high and should prompt further consideration”.

    The report cited PSNI figures which showed that incapacitant spray was used 187 times between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 and Tasers discharged 13 times.

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