Garda rollout of specialist units way off target

The Garda Inspectorate has said it expects gardaí to have sexual and domestic violence units in all 28 divisions by the end of the year — despite warnings from the Commissioner that their plan to establish just four this year, on top of the existing four, was in jeopardy.

A report from acting commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin to the Policing Authority said that a number of “high- profile initiatives”, including the rollout of the Divisional Protective Services Bureau (PSB), were threatened because they did not have the budget to implement them.

There are currently three divisions with a PSB: One division, Dublin West, has two units, in Cabra and Clondalkin; there is one in the Louth division, and the other in Cork City division. Gardaí have planned to set up a further four units in 2018.

Divisional PSBs, supported by a national unit, investigate sexual crime, involving both adults and children, as well as domestic abuse, along with human trafficking and prostitution, and are staffed by skilled and trained staff.

The Commissioner’s February report to the Authority said that several key initiatives under the Garda’s flagship Modernisation and Renewal Programme (MRP) were now in doubt.

These included a new performance assessment system, the code of ethics and the rollout of the divisional PSBs.

The report said that timely deployment of these initiatives was “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,” it said.

The report said that almost €4m in additional funding was required to support the training and related travel and subsistence costs to support the three initiatives.

The Garda Inspectorate continues to stand by a key recommendation in its Responding to Child Sexual Abuse report last month —for a “complete” rollout by An Garda Síochána of PSBs to all 28 divisions by the end of the year.

Chief Inspector Mark Toland said yesterday: “We have set them a challenging task, that by the end of the year there would be a unit in each division, rather than the three or four every year.”

He said that, according to that rate, it would take the organisation six years to get to the stage where there was one in every division.

“Only three divisions have gone live, with two in Dublin West, and there are plans for four more this year,” said Chief Toland. “We have set them a challenge, but they have some people already in place doing this.”

He pointed out that there were 14 child protection units across the 96 Garda districts in the country.

“They wouldn’t need as many extra resources,” he said. “It will mean the Garda will have to take tough decisions, it will mean moving gardaí from non-operational roles to this frontline service. And they don’t all have to be gardaí, in that the administrative work can be done through civilianisation.”

In terms of the full rollout of PSBs, he said: “Some 340 additional staff are needed for the units, minus those already in place.”

Chief Toland accepted the units will require suitable accommodation, but said they recently visited Tralee Garda Station, which has a room set aside for it.

In relation to the Commissioner’s February report to the authority, he said the inspectorate did not have a role in this regard. He said the inspectorate did not have a formal function in relation to the implementation of its recommendation — something given to the authority.

In its submission to the Policing Commission, which is drawing up a blueprint for Garda reform, the inspectorate requested the power to monitor implementation.

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