Even An Garda Síochána’s most ardent champions would accept that over recent years, maybe decades, the force’s reputation has been badly damaged and its relationship with society undermined.
It has, at times, seemed a force indifferent to authority and one that imagined itself unanswerable to political oversight. One example of this was the threat of an illegal strike over a pay demand that went well beyond public sector agreements.
Self-inflicted scandal after scandal, everything from millions of invented drink driving tests, the treatment of whistleblowers, extremely creative accounting at Templemore, lost phones, laptops and evidence all contributed to an unfortunate decline in respect and authority.
A reduction in policing resources had a negative impact too. Communities, especially rural communities felt abandoned. A guard on the beat became a rarity.
That decline had to be arrested and the pandemic may have presented the opportunity to do just that. An expansion of the role of community policing, especially in how gardaí support older people unable to leave their homes, may be just the back-to-basics fillip a stretched relationship needed.
By helping those cocooning secure food and medical supplies community gardaí are answering a mot basic need one enhanced by the fact that their very presence in communities that felt isolated and vulnerable is reassuring.