Gardaí want ballistic vests for unarmed officers

AGSI president Tim Galvin addressing the conference.

Mid-ranking gardaí said official injury figures published in the Irish Examiner yesterday show their job is “very dangerous” and the risk of injury is increasing.

The figures, from a Garda management report, show that injury rates, including from assaults, are 10 times higher than that of the average worker.

The 611 occupational injuries in 2014 translate to a rate of 39.7 per 1,000 gardaí, compared with a national injury rate of 3.4 per 1,000 employees. The injuries includes 283 assaults, 103 road traffic collisions, 43 contacts with sharp, pointed or rough objects, 22 needle-stick injuries or stabbings and six cases of psychological trauma.

“The job is getting more dangerous and the risk of injury is increasing and that is evidenced in the figures published,” said Antoinette Cunningham, president elect of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

“There’s a lot of talk about pay and resources, but you don’t hear about the injuries on duty. The work of gardaí is very dangerous.”

Speaking on the first day of the association annual conference in Westport, Co Mayo yesterday, she said the results of the Garda Occupational Injury Report were not surprising to gardaí.

“It’s long been known among members that the risk of injury on duty is far greater than most people realise. Remember, behind every uniformed garda and sergeant is a partner, a child, a father, a mother. They’re at home wondering ‘is my partner or my son safe on duty, will they come home?’,” she said.

The report found three out of 10 injuries involved the garda concerned being out certified sick for more than one month and that one in 10 were out for more than six months.

“Anyone out for longer than four weeks is out with a significant injury,” Ms Cunningham said.

And she said some of the 22 gardaí who suffered needle injuries or stab wounds had an “agonising wait” for blood results to tell them if they had contracted hepatitis or HIV. She said the danger on the frontline was reflected in the first ever call in the association for uniformed unarmed members to be provided with ballistic vests to protect them against criminals brandishing guns.

“This conference has set a first in that there is a motion for ballistic vests to be made available to those on the frontline, for uniformed unarmed gardaí.”

Currently, such vests are only supplied to armed detectives and specialist armed units. She said she dreaded to think what could have happened if unarmed gardaí had arrived at the Regency Hotel, Dublin, in February when five armed men opened fire, murdering David Byrne.

“You’d dread to think what could have happened at the Regency if uniformed, unarmed gardaí arrived at the scene, wearing only stab vests. You’d not want to ponder about it too deep.”


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