30% increase in use of force by gardaí in May

The latest report from the Garda Commissioner to the Policing Authority shows that the greatest increases were in the use of incapacitant sprays and batons.
30% increase in use of force by gardaí in May
The latest report from the Garda Commissioner to the Policing Authority shows that the greatest increases were in the use of incapacitant sprays and batons.
The latest report from the Garda Commissioner to the Policing Authority shows that the greatest increases were in the use of incapacitant sprays and batons.

There was an almost 30% increase in use of force by gardaí in May, compared to April, new figures show.

The latest report from the Garda Commissioner to the Policing Authority shows that the greatest increases were in the use of incapacitant sprays and batons.

There was a doubling in the use of Tasers, but from a very low level, from two to four incidents.

Commissioner Drew Harris told the authority on Wednesday he had “great confidence” that the use of force by gardaí was both “necessary and proportionate”.

The Commissioner’s June report provides an update on the use of force:

*Total use of force - 100 in April to 128 in May (+28%);

*Batons - 23 in April to 32 in May (+39%);

*Incapacitant sprays – 73 in April to 89 in May (+22%);

*Tasers – from two in April to four in May

*Firearms – from two in April to three in May

The reports said there was a “noticeable drop” in the use of force in public order incidents, falling from 65% to 54%.

It said: “Despite the increase in the number of domestic related calls that members of An Garda Síochána are attending, we do not see any drastic increase in uses of force in domestic related incidents.

“In April 2020, domestic incidents accounted for 2% of all incidents in which force was used. In May 2020, that figures has risen to 3%.”

Males accounted for 89% of all persons subject to force in May 2020, with females accounting for 10% and animals 1%.

DMR South Central, traditionally the division which records the most use of force incidents, accounted for 12% of all cases in May, compared to 15% in April.

DMR West saw a sharp increase in incidents, accounting for 11% of all cases in May, up from 2% in April.

Commissioner Harris was questioned at Wednesday’s authority meeting regarding the use of force by gardaí.

He said he had “great confidence” the use of force by gardaí was "proportionate and necessary".

He said there were many “very dangerous situations” where gardaí did not use force – situations where lethal force would be used in other jurisdictions.

He said force was used in scenarios of “self protection or to protect others” and included situations where gardaí were being assaulted.

He said that training, the proper application of policy and de-escalation techniques assisted gardaí.

The commissioner again expressed concern at the ongoing number of spit or cough attacks on gardaí during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 112 cases since April 8. Gardaí used anti-spit guards, or spit hoods, 78 times.

Amnesty International Ireland and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties renewed calls on the Commissioner to end the use of spit guards, citing information from the PSNI appearing to show they did not offer protection against airborne Covid-19 and may increase infection.

They claimed the process of fitting the hood, and the likely ensuing struggle, could result in a “cloud of virus particles”.

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