Frontline supervisor shortage a ‘challenge’ for force

Shortages of frontline supervisors are causing a “considerable challenge” for An Garda Síochána, according to the Garda Commissioner.

The commissioner’s February report to the Policing Authority said that having a sufficient number of sergeants and inspectors is “crucial” in ensuring Garda members, including the growing number of new recruits, are properly monitored and guided.

It also said the organisation needs an extra €4 million to implement keys parts of the force’s flagship modernisation programme, including a new performance appraisal system, the Code of Ethics and roll out of divisional specialist units to deal with sexual and domestic crimes.

“While awaiting completion of the promotion process, current deficits are causing a considerable challenge,” read the report.

“Having sufficient supervisors, particularly at Sergeant and Inspector rank for front-line policing is crucial to ensuring our operational personnel are mentored, monitored, guided and instructed in their daily duties.”

It said these responsibilities are essential for specialist units, as well as part of the organisation’s “duty of care” to new and probationer gardaí.

The supervisory problems come as the latest batch of new recruits came out of Templemore College yesterday. The 206 graduates represent the first of four batches this year, with the total number attested this year set at around 800.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said that Garda numbers should reach 14,000 by the end of 2018, taking retirements into account.

Recruitment is targeted to continue at a high rate over the coming years in order to bring the strength to 15,000 by 2021.

The commissioner’s report shows there are currently 13,514 gardaí. Taking career breaks, work-sharing, maternity leave and secondments into account the actual strength is 13,184.

The report said “high-profile” initiatives this year under the Garda Modernisation and Renewal Programme (MRP) are in jeopardy.

These include the long-awaited Performance, Accountability and Learning Framework, which will introduce a performance system for all members, as well as the Policing Authority’s own Code of Ethics and the rollout of Divisional Protective Services Bureaus.

There are currently four divisional bureaus, and four more are planned for 2018.

The Garda Inspectorate, in its recent Responding to Child Sexual Abuse report, recommended that each of the country’s 28 divisions should have such a unit by the close of this year.

The commissioner’s report said that the deployment of these initiatives is “critical” to the success of the MRP.

“However, budgetary constraints are threatening to impinge on our ability to complete the development of new systems and, most importantly, to deliver training to our staff to implement the initiative,” the report read.

“It has been identified that, at this time, almost €4m is required in 2018 to support the training and travel and subsistence costs for training associated with projects being rolled out under the MRP for which no ring-fenced funding has been provided.”

It said overtime is necessary for the training and for cover while staff are being trained.

The report said the increase in staffing up to 2021 will have “significant implications” in terms of personnel, accommodation, uniform and equipment.

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