Home > Minister addresses Joint Oireachtas Committee on Community Policing.

Connolly, Johnny (2005) Minister addresses Joint Oireachtas Committee on Community Policing. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 14, Summer 2005 , p. 12.

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Minister of State Noel Ahern TD, in a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights, outlined his intention to extend the Community Policing Forum model, developed in a number of Local Drugs Task Force areas, to all remaining LDTF areas and to other areas of high drug misuse throughout the country.

The Joint Committee was conducting a review of community policing in Ireland in light of proposals contained in chapter four of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 to establish new local policing structures.

Over the last few years we have seen the development of a number of community policiing fora throughout Dublin.  These have grown larely out of community demands for improved policing in the context of the drugs crisis in many parts of the city.  With the establishment of local drugs task forces, many of these fora have been established on a more formalised basis. The National Drugs Strategy 2000–2008 highlights the importance of community policing fora to the development of local drugs task forces. Action 11 aims ‘to extend the Community Policing Fora initiative to all LDTF areas, if the evaluation of the pilot proves positive.’1

In light of the positive evaluation of the north east inner city model,2 and following submissions received during the mid-term review of the National Drugs Strategy, Minister Ahern, who has responsibility for the Strategy, informed the committee:

…the community policing fora currently operate in three local drugs task force areas in Dublin – the north inner city, Cabra, and the south inner city. While slightly different approaches have been taken in the different areas, the model preferred by contributors to the mid-term review, particularly community groups, is the one that operates in the north inner city. This model involves the appointment of a civilian community co-ordinator who liaises between the Garda and the local community. There is a management committee, involving senior officials from the Garda and Dublin City Council and community representatives.

The Joint Committee also received submissions from representatives of the community policing fora in Cabra, Blanchardstown,3 the north east inner city and Rialto.

A report from Cabra presented to the Joint Committee detailed an intensive programme of local resident meetings and consultations with other stakeholders, organised in preparation for the establishment of a local community policing and estate management forum. The report also makes a number of recommendations to advance such a process, including: proposed terms of reference, aims and objectives, a schedule of meetings, and proposed membership of the forum.4 Representatives of the Rialto Community Network referred to the Rialto Community Policing Forum, which has been suspended due to the absence of resources.

Among the concerns raised by local drugs task forces before the Committee were representation of the community and voluntary sector on the proposed Joint Policing Committees and the status of the existing policing fora. With regard to the latter, concerns were expressed about a provision in the Bill which necessitates the Garda Commissioner’s consent for the establishment of local fora.5 The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell TD, explained the rationale behind this aspect of the Bill:

The reason for the precondition of the Commissioner’s consent is fora will have to be serviced. There is no point in having an unserviced forum. I do not want a scenario where attendance at fora becomes so onerous that when the Commissioner has his officers out from behind their desks, they spend their evenings debating local policing conditions all the time. He must have control.

However, Fergus McCabe, speaking in his capacity as a member of the Management Board of the North Inner City Community Policing Forum, stated his opposition to the provision:

It is wrong that the Garda Síochána has a veto. In terms of the partnership approach, one of the good things about the north inner city has been the level of trust which has developed. Informing and consulting the community does not take away from the operational autonomy of Dublin City Council and the Garda, both of which still have statutory and legal responsibility for whatever they do. There is absolutely no need for that type of veto approach that is inimical to the partnership system.

In relation to the membership of Joint Policing Committees, the Oireachtas Committee recommended:  ‘That a transparent procedure should be put in place to facilitate the involvement of Community and Voluntary representatives’ and, with regard to the local policing fora, ‘The decision to establish local fora should be made by the Joint Policing Committee in consultation with the relevant Chief Superintendent.’6

1. Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (2001) National Drugs Strategy 2001–2008.  Dublin: Stationery Office.

2. Drugnet Ireland Issue 8, June 2003.

3. Drugnet Ireland Issue 13, Spring 2005. See also Connolly J (2004) Developing integrated policing – towards the Blanchardstown Community Policing Forum. Dublin: Blanchardstown Drugs Task Force.

4. Cabra Community Policing Forum (2004) Report 2003–2004. Dublin: Finglas/Cabra Local Drugs Task Force.

5. As per s32 (2) (d), the Joint Policing Committee can ‘with the Garda Commissioner’s consent, establish, as the committee considers necessary within specific neighbourhoods of the area, local policing fora to discuss and make recommendations to the committee concerning the matters referred to in paragraph (a) as they affect their neighbourhoods.’

6. The report and recommendations of the Joint Committee are available on the Oireachtas website at http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/committees29thdail/committeereports2005/Community-Policing-Report.pdf

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 14, Summer 2005
Date:April 2005
Page Range:p. 12
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 14, Summer 2005
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system > Community anti-crime or legal assistance programme > Community policing
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland > Dublin
MA-ML Social science, culture and community > Community action > Community involvement

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