Former US police boss Robert Olson said there will be a “big bill” to pay when this happens, but said that, despite resource problems, gardaí were still “doing a great job”.
The chief inspector at the Garda Inspectorate said he would be making strong recommendations to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in a forthcoming report on resourcing. In a radio interview yesterday, Mr Olson said he had met Ms Fitzgerald within three days of her taking office. This was in contrast to the former minister, Alan Shatter, who, despite his requests, had not met him in three years.
“It’s [patrol cars] a financial timebomb just ticking away. The guards are doing a great job getting jobs done in spite of some of the resources they don’t have — but the vehicle fleet, they’ve been shuffling them around from urban to rural (which is a smart move) to get more mileage out of them.
“But all it means is they’re all going to crash at the same time and there’s going to be a big bill to pay.”
The Irish Examiner reported figures which showed the Garda fleet fell by 12% between 2009 and 2012 — from 2,814 vehicles to 2,474. Some Garda divisions have suffered more drastic falls, including Kerry (-27%), Limerick (-22%), Cork north (-23%), Cork west (-22%), Galway (-22%), Donegal (-21%), and Tipperary (-20%).
A further 456 vehicles are to retire by the end of this year. The Government announced last year that 305 new cars were being purchased. All vehicles have to be taken off the road once they reach 300,000 miles for safety reasons.
Mr Olson told Today with Sean O’Rourke he was worried about the lack of resources given to the gardaí. “I’m very much concerned. I’ve been a cop all my life and the Garda Síochána doesn’t have the tools they need to do the work they need to do.”
He said this was causing them to spend much more time doing things than forces in the United States which has the technology.
“The [police] organisation really, really needs and must have more technology: computer-aided dispatch for the country; they must have a records management system; they need a human resource management system — and all of them need to be tied together.
“We’ve made those recommendations. They cost money but, in the long term, those improvements, if put in, will significantly save on getting more production out of the resources they already have.”
The inspectorate is conducting an investigation into the entire structure of the force under the Haddington Road Agreement. It is also examining how gardaí investigate crime following a request to do so from Ms Fitzgerald, on foot of the Guerin Report into how gardaí probed complaints made by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.