herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

More women needed on our public order units - new report

Members of the garda Public Order Unit during a training exercise earlier this year
Members of the garda Public Order Unit during a training exercise earlier this year

A report into garda public order policing has said there needs to be improved governance on the use of force, as well as more female officers in the specialist units.

Concerns have also been raised about an ad hoc approach to organisational learning of public order policing, while the review calls for a more transparent selection process for the Public Order Unit.

The recommendations were made in a report by the Garda Inspectorate, on behalf of the Policing Authority, which was published yesterday.

It followed the authority's oversight and assessment of the force's response to two high-profile incidents involving public order policing; the Jobstown protest at An Cosan in 2014, and the North Frederick Street protests in 2018.

The inspection identified some areas of good practice, such as public order training and the professionalism of operational public order commanders.

The report dealt with a number of areas, including governance and accountability, operational delivery, as well as post-incident management.

A total of 19 recommendations were made, including that the Garda Public Order Steering Group's brief be expanded to include the internal monitoring of use of force.

It recommends that data on the use of force should also be published on the garda website, and that external oversight of use of force should be incorporated into performance monitoring by oversight bodies.

The Garda Inspectorate also recommended the urgent development of a Strategic Threat Risk Assessment to examine the force's organisational readiness, contingency planning and emerging protester tactics.

It found that of the more than 1,100 public order trained gardai nationally, only between 5pc and 8pc were women, with exact figures not available.

The oversight body has recommended that a specific strategy is introduced to "develop greater female representation in public order policing".

Officers during protests in 2014
Officers during protests in 2014

The quality of the public order selection process was also highlighted, with an overall lack of understanding on how public order gardai are selected.

In some cases unsuccessful members received no explanation as to why they were not selected, while other members described being successful after lobbying training sergeants.

Video

The inspectorate recommended that a "standardised and transparent" selection process is developed for the National Public Order Unit.

It also said it "fully supports the use of photographic and video equipment by gardai at public events for evidence gathering purposes".

The number of public order unit members compared to the recommended figure vary greatly in garda regions.

In the Dublin region there are 634 trained members, although the national minimum standards document sets the figure at 450.

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