herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Time to get gardai away from desks and onto the streets where they're needed

Gardai on patrol in Dublin
Gardai on patrol in Dublin

Predictably, the outbreak of assassinations has resulted in some politicians, garda representatives and their pals in the media suggesting it's all the fault of low garda numbers.

Of course we could do with more gardai. Five years of the Troika has hammered resources for many public services. However, last year's report from the Garda Inspectorate pointed out that there were "significant numbers" of gardai sitting at desks and doing paperwork that could easily be done by civilian clerical staff.

Just for starters, there are 500 gardai doing paperwork in the headquarters in the Phoenix Park. Recruiting administration staff would be much quicker and cheaper than training up new gardai and an obvious way to free up the uniforms for real police work. The report said using civilians to do these jobs could put gardai on the street very quickly - in just weeks.

Excited

The process has already begun: civilians are now passport-checking at Dublin Airport, which released 125 gardai to do real policing work.

Brilliant! A cost-effective and fast solution to a big problem. But don't get excited. This is Ireland, where good ideas for public-service reform are wrecked on the rocks of vested interests.

If up to a thousand more gardai could be released from their desks, why isn't it happening?

I'll bet anything it's because, despite official support, in reality some gardai will slow the process every step of the way. You can see why.

Given the choice between regular hours in a cosy office and ever-changing rosters on the mean streets, who'd blame them?

But the State didn't recruit and train those men and women to fill out forms. They should be forced out. Why do politicians wilt in the face of opposition from vested interests?

There must be more votes in protecting the public than protecting those desk jobs.

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