The Policing Authority has today published its Assessment of Policing Performance 2019-2021, evaluating the Garda Síochána’s performance over the strategy period. It outlines considerable performance successes during 2019 to 2021 and highlights some enduring challenges.
Community Policing: During the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a clear, revitalised approach to community policing was evident. The Garda Síochána, through its response, achieved a renewed connection with the community and with other groups and agencies providing support to those who were vulnerable. The challenge now for the Garda Síochána is to ensure that the Community Policing Framework rollout learns from and builds on these enhanced relationships and new lines of communication and partnerships.
Diversity: Significant targets relating to diversity were achieved including the launch of its first external facing Diversity and Integration Strategy in December 2019; the development of a hate crime definition; the establishment of both a National Diversity Forum and a local, divisional-level equivalent; and the launch of an online facility to report hate crime.
Protective Services and Vulnerability: This has been an area of notable and laudable successes for the Garda Síochána, including the rollout nationwide of specialist Divisional Protective Services Units; the undertaking of Operation Faoiseamh during COVID-19 to ensure that victims of domestic abuse were adequately supported; and landmark convictions for coercive control offences. There remains scope for improvement, primarily relating to consistency in the service provided to victims, greater knowledge and understanding of the various legal orders available to victims, and what constitutes a breach of these orders.
Prevention and Detection of Crime: There have been substantial operational successes at a national level in tackling organised and serious crime, for example in the seizure of firearms, currency and drugs, and also in the achievement of convictions and interventions to save lives. The challenge now for the Garda Síochána and its partners is to ensure that these national successes and improvements translate into an impact felt by communities. The organisation has struggled, however, with new and emerging crime, such as economic and cyber-crime. The changing nature of crime demands Garda presence increasingly in private spaces, such as online and behind closed doors, which may challenge traditional notions of what constitutes a visible police service.
Integrity and Human Rights: The Garda Síochána sought to develop a human rights foundation for the service it provides and it is clear that significant progress has been made in this regard. The continued rollout of the Code of Ethics, with over 95% of members now signed up, the design and delivery of human rights training to over 1,000 members and staff, and the publication of use of force data demonstrate commitment to matters of integrity. The establishment of the anti-corruption unit in 2020 and a policy and procedures framework on which their function operates was a significant success.
Operating Model: The development, launch and initial roll-out of the Operating Model is a significant achievement for the Garda Síochána and a good start to what represents a potentially transformational structural change. The organisation has shown a resilience and commitment to this major reform project through the initial design and communication of the model through to responding with agility to the impact of COVID-19. As with change processes of this magnitude there are, however, challenges and risks. In this instance the availability of Garda premises has posed challenges to the pace of roll-out.
Key enabling functions: The pace of development in relation to the key enabling functions—human resources, finance, ICT, training and Garda premises—has been slow. Some progress has been made, but these are critical functions within the Garda Síochána and are crucially linked to the quality of the policing service that can be delivered to the people. The effective running of the organisation; ensuring that the skills within the organisation are deployed to best effect; enabling the best possible return on the investment of public moneys; providing necessary training and development—all depend on further progress in these areas.
Commenting on the publication of the report, Policing Authority Chairperson, Bob Collins said:
“This review captures a sense of the changes that have been taking place within the Garda Síochána and records some significant successes. There are challenges for the Garda Síochána in establishing priorities within its own budgetary allocations for the much needed investment in technology. But there are also unavoidable challenges for Government because current Garda budgets cannot meet immediate demands and because the next few years will undoubtedly bring very turbulent economic conditions. But the rewards are real, life-changing, life-saving. Moreover what such investment could help to achieve matches very closely the intentions and aspirations of many government policies and matches also the genuine needs and interests of the public.”
The Garda Síochána is now entering a new strategy period. The Authority has approved a new Garda Síochána Statement of Strategy (2022-2024) and the Policing Plan for 2022. In addition, the Authority has determined new Policing Priorities following public consultation, research, and reflection on the previous three years. These have been set for three years and will be published in the coming weeks.