Garda bosses say up to 90% of recommendations to improve public order policing will be implemented by the end of the year, with the rest following early in 2020.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Assistant Commissioner Dave Sheehan were questioned at a public meeting of the Policing Authority following a presentation of a report into public order policing by the Garda Inspectorate.
Deputy chief inspector Hugh Hume said the “greatest risk” in Ireland was not from potential widespread public disorder – which, he said, was considered to be a low threat – but from inconsistent application of Garda public order policies.
The authority tasked the Inspectorate with reviewing public order policing on the back of two major events in recent years – the repossession at North Frederick Street last September and the policing of the Jobstown water protests in November 2014.
Authority member Bob Collins said he was concerned that issues arising from the policing the Jobstown event appeared to be replicated at the policing of the North Frederick Street repossession.
He said a recent internal Garda Professional Standards Unit (GPSU) report, produced last April, showed that Garda policies and procedures on public order policing were “entirely impenetrable”.
Mr Collins also expressed bewilderment that a key public order policing issue – the collapse of the Jobstown trial arising out of concerns over garda evidence – had not been examined by the GPSU report, or by any other internal review, even though Garda HQ set it as a matter requiring examination.
Commissioner Harris said he was also surprised that the GPSU report didn’t examine the collapse of the criminal trial, saying he had expected it to.
Deputy Commissioner John Twomey confirmed that no specific examination of that issue had been conducted internally.
Regarding their report, Chief Inspector Mark Toland said An Garda Síochána had successfully policed several large scale public events.
He said there are areas of good practice, such as public order training, but said there are areas that required improvement, such as the urgent need for a public order Strategic Threat and Risk Assessment.
He said their absence presented “significant organisational risk”.
Commissioner Harris said they accepted the vast majority of the recommendations, save one that called for an assistant commissioner at Garda HQ to sign off on requests for public order units. The Commissioner said regional assistant commissioners should have that authority.
Assistant Commissioner Sheehan, tasked with implementing the report, said they are taking the 19 recommendations from the Inspectorate report, the 44 recommendations from the internal Jobstown report, the 10 recommendations from the North Frederick Street report and the seven recommendation from the GPSU report and “distilling” them.
He said that nearly 90% of the recommendations would be implemented in full by the end of the year, with some other ones, including re-certification of command leaders and the provision of data on use of force by early next year.
In a presentation to the authority, Commissioner Harris said his planned anti-corruption unit would involve “active and intrusive supervision” and an anonymous “corruption stoppers type” phone line.
He said it would examine “lifestyle indicators” of members and staff but said they would need “good reason” to do so.
He said the organisation was “running pretty hot” on expenditure and overtime, with a lot of stresses caused by policing violent criminal feuds.