Calls to step up protection of gardaí

Garda supervisors are to debate the provision of body cameras and bullet-resistant vests among a range of proposed protection measures.

Sergeants and inspectors will also discuss the installation of CCTV cameras inside garda vehicles to monitor prisoners as well as the provision of flood lighting, signage and high-vis jackets to protect members dealing with major incidents, including traffic collisions.

Motions on these issues are set for discussion at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, which begins this evening.

The calls come as official figures show there were 611 incidents of occupational injury in 2014, representing a rate of 39.7 per 1,000 gardaí, compared to a national rate for employees of 3.4.

The main causes were assaults (283), road traffic collisions (103) and slips, trips and falls (92), with a further 43 being injured after coming in contact with a sharp or rough object and 22 suffering needle stick or stab injuries.

The call for body cameras is being made by delegates from three separate divisions – Laois/Offaly, Tipperary and Dublin Metropolitan Region East – reflecting the widespread concern out there among members.

Their combined motion requests the AGSI leadership to call on the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice “to supply members of An Garda Siochana on front line duties with a personal miniature camera to be worn on the members’ clothing in the interest of the members’ personal protection, the protection of the public and the collection and preservation of evidence”.

Last year, AGSI sister staff body, the Garda Representative Association, called for a debate on body cameras.

Then GRA general secretary PJ Stone said that initial studies had suggested that the number of vexatious complaints had been “hugely reduced” as a result of body cameras.

He said studies also indicated that assaults on police had reduced, as had the use of force by police and encouraged early guilty pleas.

The Northern Ireland Policing Board said it had supported body cameras for a number of years, including in response to domestic violence calls.

In a related motion, delegates from Laois/Offaly are requesting the AGSI call on the commissioner and the minister to provide “CCTV cameras in the cell of each garda vehicle designed to convey prisoners in order that driver/observer of the vehicle at all times has sight of the prisoner being conveyed in the interests of safety of the prisoner and the garda personnel conveying the prisoner”.

Sergeants and Inspectors in Laois-Offaly are also calling for personal issue ballistics (bullet-resistant) vests to be provided and worn on front line duties.

Last October, Garda Tony Golden, who had no ballistic vest, was shot dead by Adrian Crevan Mackin when he accompanied Siobhan Phillips, Mackin’s former girlfriend, to their home in Omeath, Co Louth.

Delegates also want plain clothes officers on checkpoints to be provided with high-visibility vests while delegates in Kerry want members to be provided with signage and flood lighting when responding to major incidents, crime scenes, and traffic accidents.

The AGSI conference will be dominated by speeches and motions on pay levels, including for new recruits,with one motion by the Meath branch requesting the AGSI to “consider all actions” in protecting pay, allowances, and increments.


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