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Guiney, Ciara (2019) Policing with local communities. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 70, Summer 2019 , pp. 24-25.

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In December 2018, the Minister for Justice and Equality published the Garda Inspectorate’s Policing with local communities report.1 The Policing Authority (PA) was tasked with overseeing this review and worked alongside the Garda Síochána Inspectorate (GSINSP), who are responsible for ensuring that the resources available to An Garda Síochána (AGS) ‘are used so as to achieve and maintain the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness in its operation and administration, as measured by reference to the best standards of comparable police services’ (s. 117).2 The terms of reference agreed by PA and GSINSP examined:

  • The changing environments in rural, developing urban and suburban areas
  • Views of local communities
  • Allocations of Garda resources and their deployment at the local policing level, including the use of the Garda Reserve, Garda facilities and Garda equipment, and
  • Relevant recommendations made in previous Inspectorate reports (p. 2).

Methodology

Over 40 areas were examined in the course of this investigation. Data were collected using a range of methods and analysed, for example:

  • Formal information and data requests to AGS
  • Statistical data from the PULSE (Police Using Leading Systems Effectively) system
  • Self-report questionnaires
  • Field visits to headquarters, divisions (n=8), districts, and national units
  • Meetings with key stakeholders
  • Public consultations and meetings attended on the future of policing in Ireland
  • Engagement with other policing jurisdictions and agencies
  • Implementation reports on Changing Policing in Ireland (2015)3
  • Desk-based research

Issues raised

The local policing issues raised by the terms of reference were categorised thematically into four areas: strategic perspective; resource allocation, availability and use; resource deployment and capability; and delivering local services. What follows are examples of some of the key issues identified by the Inspectorate within these categories.

Strategic perspective

This section examined the factors that impact on the demand for policing services, how it is understood, assessed, and managed from a strategic perspective. The report identified changes in Ireland’s demographic profile along with environmental factors, such as serious and organised crime, climate change and Brexit, as areas that influenced policing priorities. To address these issues effectively and to determine the most appropriate strategy and workforce required, it is critical that AGS understands and measures the demand for its services. The importance of drawing on intelligence-led policing was emphasised, particularly in the area of threat, risk, and harm assessment to help prioritise policing actions. At the time of this review, this was not done in Ireland.

Resource allocation, availability and use

How Garda resources were used and allocated to provide effective, visible and responsive services to the community was examined. The review indicated that AGS does not have an appropriate human resource system to assist in the assignment and management of staff. Gardaí are currently assigned to divisions via the Cohort allocation model, which considers factors such as population, number of stations, and crime and non-crime incidents recorded on PULSE. This is not an evidence-based model. Notably, at the time of this review, data from Cohort indicated that the number of gardaí allocated to divisions was either in excess or lower than what was operationally required. Moreover, it was also evident that the number of gardaí on duty was inadequate to meet local policing needs, particularly in rural areas. Despite previous recommendations by the Inspectorate in 2015, a large number of trained members were still in non-operational posts instead of carrying out frontline duties. Moreover, gardaí were constantly taken away from core duties, rendering them unavailable for patrol or visibility. With regard to custody facilities, many do not have the right equipment and are not in secure areas.

Resource deployment and capability

The Inspectorate examined how AGS identified local demand and how it determined whether resources should be deployed to provide a visible, effective and responsive service locally. Barriers identified that prevented good resource planning and demand management included poor-quality service calls and data due to inconsistent recording by members, particularly for domestic incidents. While there was some evidence of good practice for structured briefing, tasking, and debriefing, generally this practice was absent. In contrast to other jurisdictions, duty planning in AGS is paper based, managed district by district and the existing Garda rota uses a one-size-fits-all approach. The report indicated that no national policy exists to determine how different types of service calls nor different types of crimes for investigation should be assigned. Moreover, vulnerability of victims is only aligned to certain crime types and support is only provided to victims that meet Garda policy vulnerability criteria.

Delivering local services

Engagement with communities and stakeholders and how AGS responds in the delivery of services were examined. While positive steps were being taken to include communities in policing and to make areas safer, this was not coordinated at a national level. In addition, approaches used varied. Public consultation was evident; however, opportunities to implement a more interactive approach was underdeveloped. Positively, as per previous Inspectorate recommendations, practices and procedures for engaging with victims of crime have improved; for example, Garda Victims Services Offices have been introduced in all divisions and PULSE has been modified to record details of contact with victims. That being said, policies and procedures to support repeat victims of crime have not yet been implemented. The issue of rural crime and fear of crime has also been raised. The geography and rural isolation cause problems for AGS, which is further exacerbated by station closures in rural areas and reduced availability of community policing gardaí.

Critical actions

The Inspectorate identified nine critical actions that are considered essential to ensuring that Irish policing services provided to the community are efficient, visible, accessible and responsive:

  1. Evidence-based methodologies and processes that enable AGS to understand current and future demand and inform identification of its policing priorities
  2. Organisational structures, strategies and plans that enhance the delivery of local policing services
  3. Evidence-based resourcing model that allows accurate allocation of resources based on policing need in areas of higher threat, risk, harm, and vulnerability
  4. Organisational visibility and accessibility strategy, supported by divisional implementation plans to enhance public confidence and take policing to the public
  5. Maximum availability of human resources at local policing levels
  6. Policies, processes and systems to ensure effective deployment of resources at a local level
  7. Capability of the local policing workforce through the provision of relevant training programmes, better supervision, and the use of new technologies
  8. Strategies, processes and action plans to improve delivery of local policing services

8a.   New guidance and training and funding for Joint Policing Committees and local community to provide increased accountability for and support to local policing

    9. Implementation of a full divisional model.

Conclusions

While critical actions were put forward, Chief Inspector Mark Toland of the Inspectorate stated that ‘the Garda Síochána do many things well and their strong community ethos was reflected throughout this inspection and forms a strong foundation to develop a more structured and consistent approach to preventing harm in communities’ (p. 1).4 The Minister for Justice and Equality has requested that this report should be referred to and considered in the work carried out by the Garda Commissioner and the Implementation Group on Policing Reform.4 This report was welcomed by the Policing Authority who believe that it will make an extensive contribution to the ongoing work in this area.5

1. Garda Síochána Inspectorate (2018) Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate: policing with local communities. Dublin: Garda Síochána Inspectorate. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30115/

2. Government of Ireland (2005) Garda Síochána Act 2005. Available online at: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2005/act/20/enacted/en/print.html

3. Garda Síochána Inspectorate (2015) Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate: changing policy in Ireland. Dublin: Garda Síochána Inspectorate. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29426/

4. Garda Síochána Inspectorate (2018) Press release: publication of Garda Inspectorate Report ‘Policing with Local Communities’. Dublin: Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Available online at: http://www.gsinsp.ie/en/GSINSP/Pages/press_releases

5. Policing Authority (2018) Publication of Garda Inspectorate report ‘Policing with local communities’. Dublin: Policing Authority. Available online at: https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30115/

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 70, Summer 2019
Date:September 2019
Page Range:pp. 24-25
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 70, Summer 2019
EndNote:View
Subjects:MA-ML Social science, culture and community > Community action > Community involvement
MM-MO Crime and law > Crime prevention
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system > Community anti-crime or legal assistance programme
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system > Community anti-crime or legal assistance programme > Community policing
MM-MO Crime and law > Justice system > Law enforcement agency > Police (Garda)
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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