'Completely unacceptable': Road safety group slams delay in rollout of mobile devices for gardaí

The smart phones are described as 'mobile data stations', and provide gardaí on the roadside immediate and secure access to the same information as they would have in a garda station.

'Completely unacceptable': Road safety group slams delay in rollout of mobile devices for gardaí

A road safety group has slammed as “completely unacceptable” any delay in the scheduled rollout of mobile devices for frontline gardaí because of budget problems.

Garda sources said significant savings will have to be found after the Government told Garda HQ that the €10-€12m bill for policing the visit of US President Donald Trump will have to come from the existing Garda Budget.

The sources said that traditionally the cost of policing such visits are provided for in a supplementary budget at the end of the year, but that the Department of Justice has insisted that this will not happen on instruction from the Department of Public Expenditure.

It means that a number of ICT projects planned for this year, including the provision of 2,000 mobile devices and a major new crime investigation system, are in “jeopardy”.

Safety group PARC (Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care on our roads) said the threat to the so-called Mobility project, detailed in the Irish Examiner yesterday, was the first they had heard about it.

“Whatever the cost of the mobility devices it will be a drop in the ocean in the larger scale of things,” said Aisling Reid of PARC, which is run by people affected by road tragedies.

Too much work has been put into it to be just put off. These devices are going to save lives, they are going to revolutionise how gardaí do their jobs in a lot of different aspects of policing, not just roads policing.

The mobile devices were piloted in Limerick over 2017 and 2018 and were deemed a significant success, resulting in an application by gardaí to the department for funding. A provision of €1.5m was included in the 2019 Garda Budget and the rollout of the 2,000 devices was due to start this October.

The smart phones are described as 'mobile data stations', and provide gardaí on the roadside immediate and secure access to the same information as they would have in a garda station.

They allow gardaí to check vehicle information, including tax details, information on the owner, driver disqualifications as well as a range of intelligence information and alerts issued both internally and by the PSNI. The devices can also scan registration plates and provide live recordings and broadcast of incidents, such as vehicle pursuits.

In the Limerick pilot, the devices were not just given to members in Roads Policing, but also gardaí in regular units, detective offices and community police.

Ms Reid told the Today with Sean O'Rourke radio show that Assistant Commissioner Dave Sheahan demonstrated the devices to her and her family.

She said she also saw them used by the PSNI when she was in Belfast recently: “They have had them years and years and here we are, a couple of hours south, and living in the stone ages."

She said funding was made available for it in the budget and a date for the roll-out set for this October: “Anything outside that is completely unacceptable."

Ms Reid also commented on the release of information to Dublin independent deputy Tommy Broughan, which showed that two-thirds of drivers convicted of speeding did not present their licence in court, thereby avoiding penalty points being recorded on them.

“It's very, very alarming,” she said, adding that the difference between garda divisions is “shocking”.

She said judges are failing to ask drivers presenting in court for their licence number, meaning it isn't recorded and thereby drivers are avoiding having penalty points put on their licences.

“These mobile devices are only as good as the information that is on them and if the licence numbers aren't being recorded in court that information is not going to be on those handheld devices,” she said.

In a statement, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said: “If media reports are to be believed and the cost of policing the recent President Trump visit to Ireland will directly impact vital Garda services, AGSI has serious concerns.

We would ask the Garda Commissioner to reassure our members that ICT and training, and frontline overtime will not be impacted due to the estimated €11m cost of the US President’s visit.

“If state visits require funding, AGSI believe that Government should provide extra resources as opposed to directly affecting essential policing improvements which have a direct impact on frontline services.

“To shelve plans for mobility and new I.T. projects would fly in the face of numerous reports from the Police Authority, the Garda Inspectorate and the Commission on the Future Policing of Ireland on our organisation’s transformation needs.”

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