An Garda Síochána is a huge complex organisation and bringing about a culture change in it is like changing the course of a great ocean tanker, according to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
The Commissioner admitted that the official response to victims of crime has not always been good enough and pledged that in future people who have suffered at the hands of criminals will be central to gardaí.
Speaking at a conference, Victims Rights An Agenda for Change, at the University of Limerick, Ms O’Sullivan said it was her job to ensure necessary changes take place.
“Our response to the victims of crime has not always been what it should be,” she said.
Her task of bringing about necessary culture change in a huge complex organisation, she said was like changing the direcfion of a great ocean tanker.
She said: “We meet victims when they are most vulnerable and it is imperative that each member of An Garda Síochána treats victims of crime like they would like members of their own families to be treated or how they would like to be treated themselves.”
In previous times, she said, An Garda Síochána was seen as the thin blue line between the bad guys and and the community. Now their firm purpose was to turn the face of An Garda Síochána towards the victims.
“I will not be satisfied until we have a reassuring and respectful approach in addressing the needs and expectations of all victims,” she said. “Even with commitment, it is going to take time, given we are an organisation of 16,000 sworn and unsworn members.
“We are like a big ocean tanker and it will take time to radically change course and it needs a radical change of course. Complaints should not be treated as a whinge. We should be grateful for each complaint and grateful to the people who bring these matters to our attention.”
Ms O’Sullivan said the organisation should listen to criticism.
“If a citizen feels doubly victimised by our response, we must ensure this does not happen again,” she said. “We must reassure people who are victms of crime that they are not alone. Too many victims of crime feel abandoned by the system — that somebody turns up and takes notes and then they are gone.
“We will have to change that approach. If we fail, we say sorry and mean it and try and do better again. Sometimes people have nobody else to confide in, except An Garda Síochána. One person at a time is how a great police service is built.”
She said gardaí must look out for the community.
“It is a complicated task and needs the support of every citizen,” she said. “It will take time to imbed. We have started with little things that will change our culture and get meaningful action to serve victims of crime.”
She also stressed the importance of a partnership ethos between gardaí and the community.
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