Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
64. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Garda Commissioner is required to produce service level agreements; if so, the role population figures, existing crime rates and so on play in determining the resource allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24605/11]
Deputy Alan Shatter: The levels of service to be provided by the Garda Síochána are set out each year in the annual policing plan which is laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The annual plan sets out the policing priorities for that year, the key actions to be taken in respect of each priority and the performance indicators by which the outcomes can be measured. The allocation of Garda personnel is determined by Garda management using a distribution model which takes into account a number of factors, including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each Garda division.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: If that was the case, I certainly would not be asking this question. I have no confidence whatsoever in the equitable sharing of resources, particularly in view of the blunt instrument that is the public sector recruitment embargo. Areas that have a disproportionately low number of gardaí relative to their populations do worse in such an environment. Commuter belt areas that have grown rapidly in recent years are a case in point. Does the Minister think it fair that a county such as Kildare, with a population of 209,000, has 328 gardaí, while the combined area of Sligo-Leitrim, with a population of less than 100,000, has three gardaí more? No matter how one looks at it, counties Meath, Kildare, Wicklow or Wexford are the kinds of places which are not getting a fair share. I believe criminals themselves are reading the numbers because there have been some high profile happenings in recent years that virtually invite the committing of crimes in places known to have a low ratio of gardaí. One cannot police without adequate numbers.
Deputy Alan Shatter: I reiterate that these are operational decisions made by the Garda Commissioner. In that context it is worth bringing to the Deputy’s attention that the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including equipment, and the allocation of personnel to various units are a matter for the Garda Commissioner to decide upon on the basis of his identified operational requirements. These vary from location to location. The deployment of Garda personnel throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operation of strategy, is continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.
The Deputy may not be aware that Garda management is aided by what is known as the Garda establishment re-distribution model. The Commissioner advises that this model indicates the most effective means to distribute Garda personnel and acts as a guide to Garda management decision making. It takes into account many different policing variables, including socioeconomic factors, census information, crime trends and the minimum establishment required for each district. The allocation of Garda personnel is determined by these factors which also take account of the policing requirements of each division. This very much influences the approach taken by the Garda Commissioner.
As Minister for Justice and Equality, it is not my role to direct the Commissioner as to how many gardaí to allocate to individual districts or Garda stations. The needs in these areas can vary from time to time, depending on crime levels, instances that occur or special events that may give rise to concern.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: I have made the point, as have other Deputies in my area, of meeting very senior gardaí, up to the rank of assistant commissioner. They do not disagree with us. It appears to be that what one has one holds. In the context of an embargo, there is no commitment to redeploying people.
I have been listening to this for years. I now have an opportunity to ask the question or put the point whereas for many of those years I did not. I do not accept that the model is working. It certainly does not work in developing areas.
Deputy Alan Shatter: The review taking place throughout the Garda Síochána, and the feedback sought by the Garda Commissioner from his senior officers last June to a document produced to them, give senior officers in every area an opportunity to feed into the process. In so far as any senior officer is of the belief that his or her station and the needs of the community he or she serves are not being adequately considered, or in so far as he or she believes there should be a redistribution of the resources of the force in the context of manpower, womanpower or patrol cars, those senior officers have a unique opportunity to feed into that process. Even without it, if senior officers have a complaint to make or a concern to express, they have a direct line to the Garda Commissioner. I reiterate that it is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner.
I refer to an earlier question. The police committees that involve co-operation between senior members of the Garda and members and officials of local authorities provide a very useful forum for local communities to focus on their concerns, or for a senior member of the Garda to raise concerns openly about differences being experienced in any particular station, thereby engaging with local elected representatives. All of this can feed into ensuring we have a better, more responsive and community-oriented police service. That was the initial purpose of providing these committees, to encourage that type of interaction between members of the Garda locally, local communities and elected representatives.
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