Some Operation

Operational Policing is as varied and worthwhile as you can possibly imagine, as Editor John O’Keeffe was to find out during a recent sojourn in Dublin North Central

I love a good policing operation. There I’ve said it. In actual fact, even a mediocre one would probably do it for me. It’s an event. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. I mean what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot is the reality and the only thing that may often come between us and a poor policing operation is, you guessed it, good Frontline police officers.

There is something of an urban myth out there, however, that the Frontline are always growling and snarling over any range of matters with their superior officers. If it’s there, you don’t see it in well run stations. Take Inspector Tony Gallagher of Mountjoy Garda Station in Dublin, for example. Where there’s an operation in the District, Gallagher is sure to follow with his troops and put simply, they love him. There’s no showmanship with this Inspector; just honest, decent, educated policing and above all, a huge respect for the men and women under him who walk that thin blue line.

Truth be told, he is no ordinary garda. Gallagher doesn’t have one Scott Medal to his name for bravery – he has two and may be the only serving garda with a brace of such medals. He has had a pump action shotgun discharged at his patrol car while it was pointed straight at him and he has also saved a life. Put it this way, he is no stranger to critical incidents. Operational policing should be easy right?

Not always. One of the key operational policing matters that occur in Dublin’s North Inner City is Hybrid Patrols, where uniformed officers, with armed back up, conduct random, short roadside stops. Organised and disorganised criminals hate these stops. Tick box.

I accompanied Detective Garda Niall Hodgins and his colleague Detective Garda Ronan Hobbs on a series of such stops and Hodgins, for one, is in no doubt as to their usefulness.
“Hybrid checkpoints are clearly an effective tool in a number of ways of thwarting criminal activity – most notably it prevents the free movement of criminals throughout the community, ensuring a logistical problem for crime gang leaders,” he says. “Secondly, the visibility of uniform members supported by armed detectives on the streets of the community at any time of the day and night provides at least a modicum of comfort for the general public.

“We must also mention,” he continues, “the incredible amount of intelligence gleaned from that very presence on the Frontline; intelligence which is then collated and disseminated by colleagues in our Divisional Collators office.”

Inspector Gallagher could not agree more and goes further. “These brave officers who go out on patrol every day have prevented numerous attempted murders, detected would-be assassins and subsequent seizure of substantial assets of the criminal gangs,” he says without equivocation.

The public seemed more than happy to be stopped by the Hybrid Patrols I went out with – in fact it was as much an opportunity to engage with the community, as it was one to deter criminal activity. It’s perhaps surprising how compliant the vast majority of us are when it comes to road traffic matters. However, on one stop, the Hybrids proved their effectiveness in a matter of seconds. An elderly man soon turned out to be an historic gang figure of some note. He was somewhat taken aback by D/Garda Hodgin’s forensic knowledge of the Dublin underworld of which this man had been a part. When our crocodile shoe wearing (imitation) ex-criminal eventually went on his way, I couldn’t help feeling that he would sleep safer that night in the knowledge that the gardaí had not and would not, be going away. Hybrid Patrol 1 – Elderly Gangster with bad shoes, 0.

But it is certainly not all about gangs and Hybrid Patrols when it comes to operational policing in this area. There is also, for example, the small matter of the All-Ireland Hurling Final to be attended to. The All-Ireland Hurling Championship Finals 2019 took place on August 18. This was the first time that the Finals have taken place in the month of August and it was the biggest event in Europe on this date. Fun fact – Croke Park is the third largest stadium in Europe after Camp Nou in Barcelona and Wembley Stadium in London, so planning needs to be meticulous.

Indeed, the planning had commenced weeks before the event by the Garda Planning Team at Mountjoy and a pre-event meeting involving all stakeholders took place on the Thursday preceding the Final. The areas of planning involve a Traffic Management Plan, deployment of gardaí around Croke Park and deployment of gardaí in the stadium. How many are involved I wonder? “The policing for an All-Ireland Final involves a deployment of approximately 170 garda personnel of all ranks,” says Inspector Gallagher, “and the policing plan is implemented by the gardaí on the ground who would have received a pre duty power-point presentation, briefing and address by senior garda officers.”

Other aspects of the match day preparations involve arranging for team escorts to the stadium, in an already busy city, and of course the arrival of 82,000 fans. Then there are the arrangements for VIP arrivals and having a contingency plan for serious and critical incidents. The threat level may be still categorised as “moderate”, but the Frontline can never let their guard down at such an event.
As ever, it is the men and women in their yellow jackets of An Garda Síochána who everyone remembers from such a day. And yes, the rumours are true – some members can have a bias towards one team or another. Apart from Dublin, R/Garda Jimmy Caffrey has no such bias. When I met him, he was on his last All-Ireland Hurling Final before retirement and was naturally a little emotional. You see, everyone knows Jimmy from outside the Croke Park Hotel and Jimmy knows everyone. “I will miss all these people terribly,” he said to me and of that I have no doubt. Of the community, for the community.

The Events Office at Mountjoy Garda Station, under Inspector Gallagher, is also involved in the planning for and policing of approximately 35 GAA events at Croke Park, some 22 League of Ireland soccer events at Dalymount, policing of every protest in Dublin City, as all such protest or rallies commence at the Garden of Remembrance, Croke Park concerts and VIP State visits. The Events Team at Mountjoy consists of Sergeant JP Reynolds, Gardaí Paul O’Brien and Eoin Lynch, with support from Gardaí Derek Gibney and Ciaran Furey.
Yet in the middle of operational policing matters comes regular policing. I happened on two gardaí securing a crime scene, where a man had been horrifically attacked the night previously. While it is gang crime, for example, that may get the headlines, man’s inhumanity to man has little regard for policing sub-categories or media preferences. This was the Regular doing what they do best without any fuss – while other colleagues did theirs.

It is hard for the public to imagine what Frontline gardaí (and yes, many of their supervisors) have to put up with on a daily basis. More importantly, they are expected to be all things to all men; from social workers, to health care assistants, to lawyers, back to gardaí – with a lot more in between. Operational policing gives some of them a chance to get involved in time, date and occasion specific activity – which can be a much-welcomed change. But have no doubt – the following day, the Regular will be back doing the more unpredictable graft on all our behalves.

Because that’s just what they do.

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

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