GRA: ‘Lid lifted’ on low morale in the force

The largest police staff body said the Garda Inspectorate’s damning report on crime investigation had "lifted the lid" on why morale was so low in the force.

But the Garda Representative Association refused to accept its members were not recording all crimes and claimed incorrect classifications of crime was the fault of management.

GRA president Dermot O’Brien said there were “anecdotal” reports of superiors requesting members to “reclassify crimes downwards”, but he said they had no firm evidence of that.

The Garda Inspectorate’s Crime Investigation report found almost 40% of calls from victims it examined were not recorded by gardaí and at least 30% of recorded crimes sampled were incorrectly classified as lesser crimes. Mr O’Brien — who represents rank-and-file gardaí — refuted strong criticisms in the Inspectorate’s report of failings to properly record and investigate domestic violence. He said it was a “very difficult job” when garda advice to people affected wasn’t listened to and followed.

He told the Irish Examiner that morale was at “an awfully low level” as a result of all the critical reports, the cuts in garda numbers and salaries as well as poor equipment and technology.

“This report has lifted the lid on why morale is so low,” he said, stressing that they have been “shouting from the rooftops” about these issues for many years.

“In my division in Galway, we often have two units overlapping, with 36 people and three computers. We are then criticised for not getting files in on time and we have members being disciplined.”

He said the problems with equipment was continuing with the poor standard of new garda vehicles: “They are not fit for purpose. The attitude is any old white car with a few stripes will do. We need ones with perspex that will stop prisoners spitting and assaulting you.”

He said investment in technology and training “should not be seen as a financial imposition but an investment”.

He agreed with a finding in the report regarding the lack of sergeants and inspectors to supervise work.

“We need sergeants to give advice, particularly to young members,” he said.

Mr O’Brien earlier told RTÉ radio he did not accept members were not recording crime and took issue with criticisms of responses to domestic violence.

“If you are getting the same call to go back to the same house each time and you have given your advices to people in the house to pursue certain lines and they fail to do so, it gets to be a very difficult job for you.”

Mr O’Brien criticised the failure of the report to highlight garda numbers. “The inspectorate aren’t independent — they answer to the minister — and one principal issue in relation to this report is that it doesn’t address garda numbers.”

He said, with retirements, garda numbers could fall by up to 1,000, even factoring in the 300 recruits. This would bring levels to 12,000 — below the 13,000 minimum set by former commissioner Martin Callinan — a level at which the force could not function.

‘New approach’ to investigating domestic violence

By Evelyn Ring

A new approach is being taken in relation to the investigation of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, the interim Garda Commissioner said yesterday.

Noirín O’Sullivan said expertise in those areas would be brought together, in the very near future, under one “consolidated structure”.

She was responding to a report by the Garda Inspectorate which criticised the way gardaí dealt with domestic and sexual violence.

The commissioner said victim service centres had been piloted in the last few months and were now ready to be rolled out nationally.

She said the centres had specially trained officers to make sure victims were supported all the way through the criminal justice process.

Speaking at the launch in Dublin yesterday of Rape Crisis Network Ireland’s (RCNI) national rape crisis statistics for 2013, Ms O’Sullivan said she wanted to reassure all victims of crime, particularly crimes of a sexual nature, they could have confidence in gardaí.

The culture of the Garda Síochána would be changed from the bottom up, she said. However, it had to be driven and the direction had to come from the top.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the RCNI’s report showed victims of sexual violence were not happy with they way they had been treated by gardaí.

The report showed 14% of survivors of sex abuse felt complaints were treated in an insensitive manner by the gardaí. They felt complaints were not taken seriously and gardaí were dismissive, disinterested, unsympathetic, and not supportive.

Also, 41% of survivors said they did not receive updates from the gardaí on the progress of their cases.

“We need a root and branch change in relation to how victims are dealt with. That is very clear,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

RCNI acting director Dr Clíona Saidléar said the rape crisis report revealed 32,026 calls made to RCC helplines throughout Ireland last year — an 11% increase on 2012 figures.

Almost 2,500 people attended the 15 rape crisis centres throughout the year for counselling and support.

Ms Sadléar said almost a quarter (23%) of children under the age of 13 had been abused by another child — generally someone older than them.

The report showed 14% of perpetrators of sexual violence against survivors were under the age of 18 and 61% of survivors aged 13 to 17 were subjected to rape.

Ms Sadléar called for a concerted response to such sexual violence being committed by children and to prevent them from being adult perpetrators.

She also said the Garda Inspectorate document was not surprising, pointing out a report — Rape and Justice — published in 2009 had raised many of the problems highlighted.

Minister vows to fund IT overhaul

By Evelyn Ring

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald says she is determined to address Garda technology issues.

A Garda Inspectorate report said many of its 200 recommendations are “dependent” on modern technology, costing €40m.

Asked yesterday if the Government was going to hand over the required funding to the force, Ms Fitzgerald noted no investment had been made in Garda information technology during the Celtic Tiger years and the subsequent recession.

The minister accepted police computer systems were out of date and inadequate and this had been stated in the report.

“I am determined to address that,” she said when she attended the launch of a report by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland on national rape statistics.

The minister said she had discussed the matter with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, and was awaiting the Haddington Road report from the inspectorate.

There was a need, she said, for a comprehensive approach to investment in IT in An Garda Síochána.

“The Government are giving a commitment to that. They discussed it at Cabinet [this week]. This is essential. It is an essential part of fighting crime,” she said.

Asked again if they would get the money, she said: “Yes. They will get the money for appropriate IT resources.” She said it would be “part and parcel” of providing a better service and dealing with many of the issues outlined in the Inspectorate report.

The minister was also asked about her request for a report from the interim Garda Commissioner on why 63% of people had not had their fingerprints taken when they should have.

Ms Fitzgerald said she wanted to find out why fingerprinting was not being done more frequently when people were brought to a Garda station and questioned.

Describing it as a very challenging report, she said while it would not be possible to deal with all the recommendations overnight, it mapped out how the force should go forward.

Asked if she had confidence in the current leadership of the gardaí, Ms Fitzgerald said the process of appointing a new Garda commissioner was under way.

Ms Fitzgerald said the inspectorate had confidence that Garda management could deal with the issues highlighted in the report.

“I have confidence that the personnel are there to deal with these issues and there is a commitment to dealing with them.

Over 10% of people make 999 call each year

More than one in 10 Irish people make a 999 emergency call each year to gardaí.

The Garda Inspectorate report revealed over half-a-million 999 calls are received on average by gardaí each year, although the true figure may even be much higher.

The report showed gardaí logged a total of 533,947 calls to the 999 emergency number over a 12-month period between 2011 and 2012 — a figure equating to 11.6% of the population.

Almost half of all 999 calls were reported in the Dublin region with 250,780 emergency contacts with gardaí in those 12 months.

Although many 999 calls can come from the same individual, it represents a call rate of almost 20% of people living in the capital.

High reporting rates for 999 calls were also recorded Cork City, Louth, Limerick and Westmeath.

The lowest rate for 999 calls was logged in the Garda division of Cork West where just 3.4% of the population accessed the emergency number. Other areas with low usage rates of the 999 number were Cork North, Donegal and Cavan/Monaghan.

However, the true level of 999 calls to gardaí was probably even higher as the Garda Inspectorate report noted that some 999 emergency calls made by the public were not recorded at all.

Inspectors even found that no paper records were used to log 999 or non-emergency calls in two Garda districts without a Computer Aided Dispatch system.

It pointed out that recommendations from an earlier Garda Inspectorate report from 2009 —which included the advice all 999 calls received in every control room should be recorded electronically —were still awaiting action.

It expressed concern that paper records often just recorded the fact a 999 call was received for a robbery or an assault. The report described the use of paper records as “an antiquated practice that must be stopped”.

Although gardaí at regional, divisional and district level receive weekly crime reports on the level of offences across 35 different crime types and detection rates, such reports do not enable them to accurately identify the number of weekly 999 calls they get.

The inspectorate pointed out that internationally many police forces separate emergency and non-emergency numbers.

The inspectorate said the development of such a system would provide a much quicker answering service for emergency calls, a more consistent approach to dealing with calls and the dispatching of calls to the appropriate unit or garda.

It recommended the Department of Justice establish a working group to examine the feasibility of introducing a single non-emergency number.

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