Ordinary gardaí doing an extraordinary job

Just what is it like being a Frontline Garda during the Covid-19 pandemic around the country? Siobhán Moore has one description – awesome

Portlaoise is a bustling commuter town which boasts a prison, hospital and according to the last census, a population of over 22,000 people. From a policing perspective, it is busy at the best of times. These are not normal times. The current threat of Covid-19 has impacted society at all levels. Its emergence was sudden and a quick response from An Garda Síochána was required. Also fundamental to any effective response such as this, is the ability of the Frontline Garda to engage with the community they serve. Also visible, but immeasurable, is the commitment of Frontline members to the community, An Garda Síochána and each other.

  An Garda Síochána, like every other organisation, has had to adapt. Almost overnight frontline rosters were changed and heretofore normal everyday practices or routines have ceased. Checkpoints have become Covid-19 checkpoints. A ‘buddy’ system has been implemented whereby members are partnered together to reduce the risk of infection, should one of them contract the disease. Cars are wiped down before, during and after use. Thermometers, face masks, biohazard suits, shoe covers and other PPE gear are the new tools of our trade. “Dry cough”, “fever”, “asymptomatic,” are the new buzz words. Everything is prefaced either “Covid-19” or “non-Covid-19” related.

Refreshments, which were normally the time a Unit would take together, are now taken apart. Parading is held out of doors. Normal policing is still happening. We are still attending calls. We are still investigating crime. Life has changed (albeit temporarily) as we know it. The decision-making model has a newly added consideration, namely coronavirus. The ability of An Garda Síochána to adapt has been phenomenal. It is this ‘we’ll just get on with it’ attitude that is intrinsic to the Frontline members. In years to come, this will be a landmark in many member’s careers, on a larger scale than the ‘foot and mouth’ crisis.

Frontline Gardaí have been applauded on many levels for their response during this crisis. They are featured regularly on news bulletins visiting those that are cocooning or assisting members of the community that need help or are vulnerable in some way. This is wonderful to see at first hand. Then I think, this is what the Frontline members of An Garda Síochána have always being doing. Community Policing represents the core ethos of An Garda Síochána.

As mentioned above, it’s always been there – it just seems more apparent now. In the early days of this crisis, I was amazed by my colleagues. One example of this, is a colleague who has spent over 10 years stationed in Portlaoise. Using this local knowledge, he identified members of the community that may need assistance and took it upon himself to check on them. He knows how to approach people in a sensitive manner and help people. The goodwill between An Garda Síochána and the community is reciprocal. There has been an abundance of cards and well wishes from the residents in Portlaoise. The community here are fantastic. A mother and daughter provided us with 50 home-made face masks, with washing instructions. This visible show of public support goes a long way.

Frontline workers are the first line of soldiers in this battle against Covid-19. Frontline Gardaí are part of this line up. The level of commitment shown by my colleagues in these trying times is overwhelming. There is a female member who has sent her son to live with relatives so she can continue to work and serve the community. Conversations take place over Skype or through the sitting room window. She is not the only one. These sacrifices have not gone unnoticed. Again, the public show of support confirms this.

Covid-19 is a leveller. There is mourning for the people that have been lost to it or may be lost to it. There is a sense of loss of a way of life that may be gone forever. It touches everybody. Having spent over half of my service in what can be considered non-frontline duties in the traditional sense, I am in awe of my Frontline colleagues. I have never been as proud to be a member of An Garda Síochána and am even prouder to work alongside such members.

For every man and woman that puts on a Garda uniform and stands in that front line and faces Covid-19 head on, one word; respect.

Sergeant Siobhán Moore is attached to Unit D in Portlaoise Garda Station

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

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