Ordinary gardaí doing an extraordinary job

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Station Watch:

This month, in the light of an uncertain Brexit, John O’Keeffe went to visit Cavan Garda Station, where he found a team with its feet firmly on the ground when it comes to all aspects of modern policing

If you want to meet a garda with border policing running through his veins, you need look no further than Superintendent Jimmy Coen of Cavan Garda Station. This man has 39 years of service in the Force behind him where his time has been spent in Cavan/Monaghan (28 years) and Donegal Division (11years) – all Border Policing areas. In times of Brexit mayhem, it’s a pair of steady hands like his that his men and women need on the rudder.

As always however, a Superintendent is only as good as the men and women who serve on the Frontline for him. The day I visited Cavan Station, the Probationers were getting ready for their final Progression Interviews. I’m not sure what’s in the water in Cavan but these young men and women were wholly informed, enthusiastic and confident as they each marched into what must be a daunting affair for any garda. As I chatted to them in the canteen it soon became clear that in front of me, I saw the leaders of the Force for the future.

Soon I was on patrol, with what I can only describe as the backbone of the Frontline of Cavan Garda Station. Gardaí Jerome Ford and Christine Gallagher took me on patrol and soon we were called to an incident involving threatening behaviour in the centre of town. A minor event for the Frontline perhaps but a major one for those affected and both gardaí took the incident as seriously as they would have any other. Their connection with the locals is clear.

Soon we are at an old border post – no one truly knows of course what Brexit may bring from a policing perspective but these gardaí are ready and able whatever may come.

Back at the station I met Garda Shane Dempsey, who took me out to some of the most rural parts of the county. You can see how this would be a smugglers haven in good times and in bad. But local gardaí, like Dempsey, know this terrain like the back of their hands. While they cover a vast area and are always pressed for resources, after a couple of hours with this garda, I felt that it would be a brave criminal who would place a bet on avoiding detection when Dempsey was on duty – you can run but you cannot hide.

However, like every other Division across the country, there has been an increase in levels of drugs and substance abuse, which has had a significant impact on crime within the District. This is also reflected in crime categories such as burglary, thefts of all types, assaults and public order offences. Increases in detections of drug driving are also a major concern for Cavan Station and beyond.

In these times, try and avoid the topic as you will but all conversations in stations such as Cavan come back to one issue – Brexit. Superintendent Coen is unapologetic. “Brexit has been a focus of both Divisional and District management but the ongoing uncertainty has made planning for resources and infrastructure problematic. Whilst the main policing activities are occurring in the Cavan town urban area, border policing will have to be increased significantly if any changes to jurisdictional status develops in the future. My own views are that any disaffection of communities in either jurisdiction will require effective policing, were there a return to any level of subversive activities.”

Coen would also like to see an increased allocation of personnel particularly at Cavan Station and he regards the station, which opened in 1991, as “no longer fit for purpose.”

“We have hard working members of all ranks and garda staff who provide a very professional service and deserve the best working conditions. This in my personal view cannot happen quickly enough,” he says.
Cavan is in many respects, like so many other stations dotted around the country, dealing with urban, rural and, additionally here, Border crime. If the Frontline in this station are a metaphor, however, for the professionalism of gardaí up and down the country; from probationers, to those with 20 years service under their belt, we can all genuinely sleep a little easier at night.

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

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