herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Gardai to record pepper spray usage internally instead of notifying GSOC

Training with pepper spray
Training with pepper spray

Gardai will no longer need to notify the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) when they use pepper spray, as the force aims to improve its internal database and transparency.

Last year officers resorted to using the incapacitating spray, known as OC spray, hundreds of times - and more than the London Metropolitan Police and PSNI combined.

Between January and November 2018, 633 incidents of pepper spray being used were reported to the garda ombudsman.

This compares to 301 times by the Met Police and 195 by police officers in Northern Ireland.

A current Garda HQ directive means the use of OC spray must be reported within 48 hours but in 2017, GSOC raised concerns that only 33 of 502 incidents were reported on time.

However, gardai are currently in the process of developing their own internal database to record use-of-force incidents, including pepper spray.

Automatic

GSOC told the Herald that as a result, gardai will stop sending notifications to the ombudsman every time pepper spray is used.

This is expected to happen by October.

Data recording mechanisms on the garda Pulse system will be modified to include the recording of pepper spray and Taser use. Automatic emails will also be sent to the watchdogs on firearms and Taser incidents, but not OC spray or the use of a baton.

As part of Garda HQ directive 10/10, GSOC will still be notified of the use of Tasers and conventional firearms.

Incidents which lead to death or serious injury will also continue to be referred to GSOC under a statutory obligation.

The use of Tasers here is rare. In the first 11 months of last year, gardai used a Taser on 27 occasions, compared to 519 by the Metropolitan Police.

The figures were revealed in a Garda Inspectorate review of public order policing, and noted that Tasers are more readily available to the Met officers than gardai or PSNI officers.

Currently only specialist garda units are issued with Tasers, despite repeated calls for the non-lethal weapon to be made available to all front-line officers.

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