Success of Commission into Future of Policing will hinge on its implementation

The new ‘root and branch’ review will review similar issues over and over again but its success will not be judged on the production of another report but the implementation of its recommendations, says Cormac O’Keeffe.

Success of Commission into Future of Policing will hinge on its implementation

You hope the new policing body will be able to get its hands on hard copies of previous reports.

Either that or order in a bank of printers sharpish.

It might be best to order them anyway, as it will need them given the heaving sea of documentation they will need to print off.

The ‘root and branch’ review, or Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, will need to set aside another room to store the reports.

Yesterday’s statement by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said issues that should be addressed in the forthcoming terms of reference of the commission include:

  • Structures and management in the Garda — including community safety, security, and immigration;
  • Composition, recruitment, and training of personnel;
  • Culture and ethos;
  • Structures for oversight and accountability;
  • Legislative framework.

Ms Fitzgerald said the commission should take account of best police practices in other countries and “previous reports” here.

Assembling those relevant reports will be the easy bit — reading and digesting them? Not so easy.

Expect sore eyes and tension headaches and feelings of Groundhog Day as commission members read about similar issues, time and time again. They may start with the Morris tribunal reports — all five of them — to get it going.

They’ll see the Garda Inspectorate has produced around a dozen reports over the last 10 years on virtually all of the above issues.

These include two landmark documents: The 490-page Crime Investigation report in October 2014 and the 442-page Changing Policing in Ireland report in November 2015, involving hundreds of recommendations.

Then there’s the Garda Ombudsman, which has covered a huge area, including reports on informant handling, surveillance, controversial deaths, and policing of protests.

A five-year probe into the Garda investigation of Ian Bailey is due, while an equally long-running investigation into penalty points and a separate probe into matters relating to Sgt Maurice McCabe and the O’Higgins commission are ongoing.

This is not to mention the statutory and non-statutory inquiries, from Cooke (GSOC bugging), to Geurin (McCabe), to Fennelly (Callinan resignation), to Higgins (McCabe).

In addition, the Oireachtas justice committee has conducted hearings and published reports, including, last December, on police oversight — and the Tánaiste is already drafting laws to boost GSOC’s powers.

While the commission gets up and running, a lot of parallel issues will be going on around it, starting with the imminent publication of Fennelly 2 (Garda phone taping), all 740 pages, and the GSOC Bailey probe.

The Charleton inquiry will run right through the commission’s work.

The Department of Justice is conducting a review of Garda surveillance powers.

A five-year Garda-commissioned cultural audit is currently being tendered.

The ongoing implementation of the inspectorate’s recommendations is being monitored by the Policing Authority. It has also been requested by Ms Fitzgerald to conduct an investigation into the breath test and conviction scandals.

The quarterly public meetings between the authority and the commissioner will continue as normal.

How all of this will function alongside the new commission is not clear, particularly when the commission will be calling for submissions, consulting widely, and holding public hearings.

Crucially, we don’t know who will sit on the commissionor how they will be selected. Ultimately, the success of this commission will hinge on its implementation.

Like every other report before it.

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