Elite armed gardaí begin work tomorrow in counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick as part of a new regional strategy to tackle shootings and hostage situations.
The 24-officer squad, which will have its own uniforms and vehicles, will give back-up to frontline gardaí.
It is the first of five Regional Support Units (RSU) which were pledged in the Garda’s 2008 Policing Plan.
The southern unit covering Cork City, Cork North, Cork West, Kerry and Limerick. will initially operate as a pilot and be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
“The RSU will be available to provide support to other garda units engaged in frontline policing in the event of a critical incident such as a hostage situation or firearms incident,” a garda spokesman said.
“RSU officers have undergone training to a high level over a 13-week period, which included instruction in critical incident response, tactical deployment and conflict resolution/negotiation techniques.
“Also included was tactical driving, first aid and the use of firearms and less lethal weapons.”
RSU officers will patrol as regular uniform Gardai performing the normal policing functions on a daily basis throughout their regions.
But if they have to respond to a shooting incident or hostage situation, they will change into tactical gear and will have access to firearms and less lethal weapons, similar to the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
“Both the tactical gear and modifications to their vehicle (including signage and lighting) when in response mode are such as to ensure that they are clearly identifiable and distinguishable from regular officers,” the spokesman added.
“RSUs will remain under the command of the Regional Detective Superintendent and when deployed to a critical incident responsibility will pass to a dedicated, trained Incident On Scene Commander.”
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said: “Regional Support Units will provide tactical and firearms support for our frontline officers responding to critical incidents and will enhance the overall level and extent of service that we provide to the communities we have sworn to serve, through a multi-purpose, skilled and well equipped group of personnel.”
Each RSU will comprise 24 hand-picked officers, including supervisors. However, strengths can be increased if deemed necessary.
A basic RSU patrol will consist of two or three officers in a specially adapted marked patrol car.