O’Sul­li­van’s fi­nal re­port card shows re­forms stalling

Polic­ing Au­thor­ity con­cerned by de­lays with im­ple­men­ta­tion of code of ethics

The Irish Times - - Home News - Conor Lally Se­cu­rity and Crime Edi­tor

The crises around in­flated breath tests, the wrong­ful con­vic­tion of mo­torists and fi­nan­cial gov­er­nance at the Garda Col­lege in Tem­ple­more all stalked the last days of Nóirín O’Sul­li­van as Garda com­mis­sioner.

There was a sense her ap­proach to­wards them was led by dam­age lim­i­ta­tion rather than ad­mit­ting prob­lems pub­licly at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity and then try­ing to fix them.

On Thurs­day, four days af­ter O’Sul­li­van stepped down, an up­date about how the Garda was get­ting on with its re­forms was pub­lished by the Polic­ing Au­thor­ity.

It is ef­fec­tively the last re­port card we will have on the O’Sul­li­van reign. It is by no means all bad. But it sug­gests her re­form pro­gramme was strug­gling in many ar­eas, as this sum­mary of find­ings in three key ar­eas un­der­lines.

Code of ethics

The mea­sure was en­shrined in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 but not fol­lowed through. It was only ear­lier this year that the code was launched.

It is un­der­pinned by nine prin­ci­ples, from com­mit­ting to “up­hold and obey the law” in a “fair and im­par­tial way” to ev­ery­one in the Garda be­ing “re­spon­si­ble for chal­leng­ing and re­port­ing wrong­do­ing”.

The au­thor­ity be­lieves if the code is in­tro­duced prop­erly, gar­daí would in time in­stinc­tively act, and even think, by the code and the Garda would be trans­formed.

In its lat­est re­port it said while the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the code was ex­pected to un­fold over the course of 2017, no im­ple­men­ta­tion plan was de­vised.

It was only six months af­ter the code’s Jan­uary launch that a se­nior of­fi­cer was ap­pointed to take charge of its im­ple­men­ta­tion, with its im­ple­men­ta­tion now get­ting un­der way. This in­cludes copies of the code be­ing dis­trib­uted to all Garda mem­bers, as well as re­gional launch events and train­ing about the code.

The au­thor­ity was con­cerned at the de­lays and will mon­i­tor the mat­ter in the months ahead.

Vic­tims

A ma­jor el­e­ment of the Garda’s re­form pro­gramme is to make po­lice work vic­tim-cen­tred; in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing sup­port for them and en­sur­ing they are up to date with all de­vel­op­ments in their cases.

This is be­ing done by the cre­ation of new units and teams across the coun­try manned by staff trained to be ex­pert in deal­ing with vic­tims’, of­ten com­plex, needs.

The au­thor­ity is to date very pleased with the “con­sid­er­able” progress in this area.

It said the roll-out by the Garda of the first pro­tec­tive ser­vices units and cre­ation of a vic­tim ser­vices of­fice were mile­stone de­vel­op­ments.

Th­ese could of­fer spe­cial­ist polic­ing ser­vices and sup­port for all vic­tims, in­clud­ing the vul­ner­a­ble, chil­dren and traf­ficked per­sons among them.

In di­vi­sions across the Repub­lic, teams of 10 gar­daí are be­ing put to­gether to work un­der a sergeant and with over­sight from an in­spec­tor. All will be spe­cially trained to deal with vic­tims.

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from vic­tims’ groups were unan­i­mous [in] recog­nis­ing the pos­i­tive changes that have oc­curred with the es­tab­lish­ment of the vic­tim ser­vices of­fices,” the au­thor­ity said.

Later it added: “Cer­tainly there is great op­ti­mism and wel­come amongst vic­tims’ groups for the units and their ben­e­fit to vic­tims.”

Staffin­gand civil­ian­i­sa­tion

Garda re­cruit­ment was stopped for much of the re­ces­sion. And the pace of civil­ian­i­sa­tion has been slow. Hir­ing more sworn and civil­ian Garda mem­bers forms a key part of the Garda’s re­form pro­gramme.

How­ever, the au­thor­ity has found lin­ger­ing prob­lems, es­pe­cially with civil­ian­i­sa­tion.

The in­spec­torate for sev­eral years said it had found 1,500 jobs be­ing done by gar­daí that could be civil­ianised. The Garda ini­tially dis­agreed, iden­ti­fy­ing be­tween 152 and 163 posts that could be civil­ianised.

In a wel­come move, we now know that dur­ing O’Sul­li­van’s last days the Garda said it had found 2,055 jobs “suit­able for con­sid­er­a­tion with a view to pos­si­ble civil­ian­i­sa­tion”.

While wor­ried about the vague lan­guage used, the au­thor­ity was also con­cerned that Garda Head­quar­ters and se­nior ranks were not seen as suit­able for civil­ian­i­sa­tion. “This some­thing to which the au­thor­ity will re­turn,” it said.

Some 134 new civil­ian posts were sanc­tion in Jan­uary. Yet de­spite staff pres­sures in ar­eas such as IT and hu­man re­sources, the po­si­tions re­main un­filled. Some civil­ian IT po­si­tions sanc­tioned in 2015 are still not filled.

Busi­ness cases for new po­si­tions must be com­piled and pre­sented by the Garda to the au­thor­ity. And the au­thor­ity must then take the case to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Depart­ment of Pub­lic Ex­pen­di­ture and Re­form.

How­ever, most of the busi­ness plans were of such poor qual­ity they could not be used and so Garda mem­bers are now be­ing as­sisted by the au­thor­ity in how to pre­pare them.

And in other cases busi­ness plans were given to se­nior of­fi­cers who did not pass them along to the au­thor­ity.

‘‘ Cer­tainly there is great op­ti­mism and wel­come amongst vic­tims’ groups

PHO­TO­GRAPH: COLIN KEE­GAN/ COLLINS DUBLIN

Then Garda com­mis­sioner Nóirín O’Sul­li­van at a meet­ing with the Polic­ing Au­thor­ity in April.

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