Flagrant drug taking on our streets cannot be downgraded

Garda Review Irish PoliceEDITORIAL: The media has power. The power to tell what the issues are, and the greater power of news presentation. In recent weeks the focus and framing of news has shifted on to the open drug use in Dublin city centre. This is timely and has currency, because it impacts on tourism, business and the safety of the public. Our members noticed these issues years ago, and realising the task ahead of them, called for greater numbers and resources to tackle the symptoms of these wider social problems. We appreciate the solution is not just through policing; but other cities in Europe and beyond do not tolerate anti-social behaviours – from aggressive begging to flagrant law-breaking. Neither should we.

Our critics will always say that of course the Garda Representative Association call for more gardaí – it is in their interest. We do not deny that. That is why we are actually asking the government, once again, to bring in suitably qualified expertise to undergo an independent analysis of how many gardaí are needed to fulfil all of the obligations of a national police service responsible for civil policing and state security. Surely our leading universities could submit tenders for a project in the national interest?

Our considered proposals were derisorily dismissed by narcissistic commentators as ‘GRA bleating’ or ‘Garda whingeing’, yet more often than not the truth has eventually come out. Since 2009 we have referred to the worldwide axiom that crime increases in three conditions; when there is a recession, when police numbers are reduced, when police morale is worsened. We said that all of these conditions were met – but government, garda management and the media said that the evidence did not support our position. They told us crime was actually falling – and no one seemed surprised that Ireland had miraculously bucked the general worldwide trend.

“The honest solution to the issue of whether Ireland has sufficient garda numbers is to conduct and publish an independent analysis from accredited experts. Anything less is bluff and bluster.”

So how did crime fall when policing was reduced by austerity and the country was broke? A former president of the Association had the temerity to suggest that crime figures were being ‘massaged’ by reclassification and downgrading of offences. The then garda commissioner questionned the evidence for this. The final report of the Garda Inspectorate may determine the outcome of this; as the leaked details of the draft version has reportedly suggested.

Gardaí of all ranks have developed and implemented a new roster system to fulfil government requirements of matching policing needs with operational deployment; yet we are starting to hear criticism that the new roster is responsible for fewer gardaí on the beat. Patent nonsense. We have a new roster, but insufficient staff numbers to fulfil all of the duties expected of a modern police service and state security agency.

The current attempt to blame anything other than the obvious is political subterfuge and pointless distraction. In any attempt to explain away any open flagrant disregard for law and order, and the lack of enforcement, in convoluted arguments is dishonest. The truth is there are not enough gardaí. The minister has promised “seamless ongoing recruitment”. The one hundred new recruits, though extremely welcome and long overdue, are not going to reverse the decline. 

For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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