From Socialist Voice, April 2005

Patten reforms needed for the Gardaí

A recent report produced by Ionann Management Consultants demonstrates once again the necessity for major reform and a lot more local democratic control over policing.
     Among the problems identified by the report are the following:
• The Garda Human Rights Office and the Racial and Intercultural Office have a full-time staff of three between them.
• The infringement of human rights policy is not a disciplinary offence under the Garda Code.
• There is no clear chain of command with regard to who is responsible for human rights policy.
• The recording of racially motivated incidents on the PULSE computer system is widely ignored; the recording of such incidents was mandated in 2002.
• The overzealous checking of motoring documents and identity papers.
• Heavy-handed dealing with young people, especially those from working-class areas.
• Not taking reports of domestic violence against women, especially Traveller women.
     The report is very useful in exposing the level of covert racism at rank-and-file level and the smooth PR-speak of the Garda senior management, who present the case that all is well.
     It is a widespread belief among gardaí that most immigrants, particularly Algerians and Nigerians, are involved in social welfare fraud and other criminal activity. This applies also to their attitudes to Travellers and to working-class youths. The report quotes one garda, whom one can only presume is typical, to the effect that the majority of these groups are involved in criminality and not a minority. The presumption is that they are guilty to start off with. The report also shows the widespread perception that more interviews with suspects were taking place in the back of Garda vans since the video-recording of interviews in Garda stations became the norm. It also shows up the poor level of training and knowledge of human rights legislation among gardaí.
     Over the years those concerned about the increasing powers that have been given to the Gardaí, without any appreciable increase in the force’s ability to deal with crime, would lead in the long run to a corruption of the force and the abuse of human rights.
     In Michael McDowell we now have a Minister for Justice who is on the far right of the political spectrum, wanting to give the Gardaí more powers, while the Garda representative bodies also call for more powers. This is a grave danger to civil rights in this state. What is urgently required is not more legislation but rather a complete overhaul of the administration and control of the Gardaí. One area where we can most certainly learn from the Good Friday Agreement is that of community policing and democratic accountability.
     The whole control of the Garda Síochána needs to move up the political agenda. This is an area where the left can link in to communities that are under pressure from anti-social elements and drug-dealing, which many communities feel the Gardaí turn a blind eye to.

Home page  >  Publications  >  Socialist Voice  >  April 2005  >  Patten reforms needed for the Gardaí
Baile  >  Foilseacháin  >  Socialist Voice  >  Aibreán 2005  >  Patten reforms needed for the Gardaí