CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
STATEMENT BY KATHLEEN O’ TOOLE, CHAIR OF THE COMMISSION ON THE FUTURE OF POLICING IN IRELAND
18 September 2018
My colleagues and I are honored to present to you today the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
Our work as a diverse, but cohesive team over the past sixteen months has produced an innovative and powerful report. We have listened carefully to the people of Ireland, and to the police. The message was consistent and clear. Everyone wants more Gardaí working in and with the community. They want a modern, well-equipped, efficient and professional police service. They also called for more sensible arrangements for overseeing and investigating the police - the current system is complex and confusing.
Today we present a new framework for policing, security and community safety that will deliver:
- better service to communities
- a better organization to work in
- a better framework for oversight and scrutiny of policing, and
- an enhanced structure for national security
When implemented, these recommendations will give the Garda Commissioner the powers of a chief executive, enabling him to lead effectively and manage change. The Commissioner will have the authority to select a strong, appropriately qualified leadership team, comprising sworn and non-sworn personnel. Together, they will promote a culture of professionalism and continuous improvement, beginning with recruit training and carrying on through the careers of everyone in An Garda Síochána, sworn and non-sworn, all being full members of a single service.
There will be a step change in the way the police manage, share and analyse information - data will be a strategic asset for policing. It will be an ethical police service that protects and vindicates the human rights of everyone in the State, working in close partnership with other public services, community organisations and the private sector.
Finally, our recommendations will also lead to a clear recognition across government, at all levels, and in the policing oversight bodies, that the policing of Ireland is a collective responsibility.
This new roadmap not only focuses on the current arrangements for policing, but also anticipates future challenges, given changes that will inevitably occur in society, criminality and technology.
The central finding of our review is that the systems currently in place – the police service itself and the wider national framework for policing, security and community safety – must be strengthened significantly to meet existing requirements, and also to address future demands.
The shortcomings are not merely, or even mainly, a question of resources. There are critical systemic issues related to structures, accountability mechanisms, management processes and culture that must be addressed. Policing outcomes in Ireland will not improve simply by adding more police or appointing new police leaders. There is an urgent need for comprehensive, fundamental change and there is an imperative to deliver it now.
This Commission’s vision for the future of Irish policing is a positive one. We are inspired by the fast-moving transformation of the country and we see Ireland as being, in many ways, on the leading edge of major trends in the world – a champion of economic openness with an inventive and progressive population, a democracy that is respectful of the rule of law and human rights, and a country comparatively well-placed to address the challenges that come with rapid economic and demographic growth, and international exposure.
We have been inspired too by smart, enthusiastic and committed people we have met in Irish policing, and their receptiveness to change. We firmly believe that the transformation we envisage is achievable and that Ireland can soon have a modern, professional, effective police service that, works closely and collaboratively with communities and other organisations to protect the nation and its people from harm.
Report – Key elements
While other bodies have been charged to examine past concerns, we were tasked as a Commission to design a fresh start. Our report does just that.
- A new approach to policing and community safety
We are recommending a new district policing model, which will make local communities the central focus for An Garda Síochána and ensure that Gardaí are more visible on the front line. With the protection of human rights as its foundation and purpose, we propose a new definition of policing to include the concept of community safety and a stronger emphasis on harm prevention. Other agencies will work with police in multidisciplinary teams to protect people and prevent crime and communities will have a stronger say in how their local areas are policed. Police will respond more effectively to the needs of victims of crime.
Community members around the country told us that they attach great importance to community policing, but they regularly experience a lack of police visibility and continuity of service. The district policing model we propose is part of a new overall structure for An Garda Síochána which prioritises service to the community. Building partnerships with the community is the backbone of police work and the police mission. Gardaí should be assessed on their performance in this respect, and it should be a factor in determining assignments and promotions.
- Measures to deliver a professional, modern and effective police service
Effectively serving communities well into the future requires a modern and professional police service. The people of An Garda Síochána are its greatest resource. We have focused in our report on transformative changes that will support these people in serving communities and equip An Garda Síochána to become an adaptive organisation, able to anticipate and respond to changes in the coming decades.
A more effectively managed police service will instil a culture of professionalism and continuous improvement, beginning with recruit training and continuing throughout the careers of everyone in the organisation, sworn and non-sworn.
We propose a new approach to Garda training and education, in partnership with higher education institutions around the country. The Garda Training College at Templemore will concentrate in the future on specialist police-craft and in-service training. We recommend mandatory in-service training and career development opportunities for all and a funded wellness programme for staff.
Under our recommendations, sworn and non-sworn personnel will be recruited directly to An Garda Síochána, as part of a single workforce with a shared mission. A Garda Access Programme will be developed to enable the Garda organisation to reflect the diversity of Irish society.
We also recommend that the Garda Commissioner should be empowered to manage the organisation so that it can take ownership of its own future direction. In addition, a new statutory Board will strengthen governance and ensure efficient use of resources.
The structure of An Garda Síochána will be flatter with scope for local decision making, new ideas and innovation. Garda resources to support key technology projects will be enhanced and front line police will be prioritised for the early roll-out of mobile technology. The Commission has also recommended a one-off targeted severance package that management can deploy in support of restructuring and reform.
3. A new coherent framework for the independent oversight of policing and community safety
Independent oversight is an important element of modern policing. The current policing oversight structure has emerged reactively and rapidly in response to various crises. We are now recommending a new framework in which all the parts have clear and distinct roles, but together support the delivery of better policing. We want to ensure fair and effective scrutiny and oversight to promote professional standards of policing and ensure fully independent investigation of complaints.
The time has come to make a clear distinction between, on the one hand, the roles of the Department of Justice and the oversight bodies as we have recommended, and on the other hand the internal governance of the police organisation, for which An Garda Síochána and its Commissioner must be responsible. This does not diminish in any way the accountability of the police to government, nor the role of oversight bodies to investigate and scrutinise how police exercise their responsibility.
This new framework will ensure that the Department of Justice and Equality focus on policy direction, not day-to-day management of the police. It also proposes a new system of structured engagement with Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. A new oversight body will supersede the Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate absorbing most of their functions and taking on new ones.
This new Policing and Community Safety Commission will ensure greater coherence, more effective scrutiny and a new emphasis on promoting multi-agency approaches to policing and community safety.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission will have a new name and a new remit to copper-fasten its independence and deliver an advanced police complaints system. The new body will investigate incidents, as well as individuals, to find fault where appropriate, identify systemic weaknesses and produce lessons for the organisation. It will carry out all serious investigations independently, so that police will no longer be investigating themselves as is now sometimes the case.
4. A multi-agency framework for national security, headed by a National Security Coordinator
The Commission was asked to assess the current structures around national security. We are recommending a new Strategic Threat Assessment Centre (STAC), headed by a National Security Coordinator at central government level to address existing and emerging security threats. The STAC will answer to the Department of the Taoiseach and have staff with the expertise necessary to synthesise intelligence and information.
An Garda Síochána will retain operational responsibility for national security and a ring-fenced budget for its security and intelligence capability will enable the necessary recruitment of specialist expertise.
This new structure will require special oversight arrangements. An Independent Examiner of terrorist and serious crime legislation will be appointed to oversee how security legislation is implemented and to act as an adjudicator on requests for information from oversight bodies where necessary.
Our report also calls for enhanced capabilities to counter cybersecurity threats and cybercrime.
We have considered carefully whether to recommend the creation of a separate agency with powers going beyond analysis and intelligence coordination. We are not convinced that this is either necessary or realistic at the present time. However, whether or not a separate agency is considered at some future point, we believe that it is vital now that security intelligence should be coordinated outside the police or any other individual agency or Department.
We have suggested that immediate steps should be taken to create the STAC and the National Security Coordinator role. We believe these structures should be established on an administrative basis within the existing security framework under the auspices of the Department of An Taoiseach.
Policing as a Profession
Before closing and taking your questions, I would like to highlight one more theme running through our report, which is that policing should be seen, and see itself, as a profession.
This carries solid implications. A profession requires proper qualifications, robust training, continuous professional development, commitment to a code of ethics, clear policies, high standards of service, accountability and a culture of continuous improvement. This will lead to the police service Ireland needs and deserves. It will be an adaptive organisation to align with Ireland’s growth and transformation in the coming decades.
I met with the new Garda Commissioner to brief him on this report. While I know that he will want to take some time to look at our recommendations in detail, his initial response was very enthusiastic. He has of course a strong record of managing change in a large police organisation. I believe, if given the support he deserves, he will provide exceptional leadership to the Garda organisation.
The work of our Commission has been intense and expansive. We reviewed hundreds of documents concerning all aspects of Garda operations and administration. We benchmarked policing in Ireland against practices in other jurisdictions. We conducted surveys and engaged with thousands of individuals from senior politicians representing all parties, officials from numerous government bodies, academics in Ireland and abroad, officials from other jurisdictions, Gardaí of all ranks and non-sworn Garda employees.
All of these encounters were of great value, but none were more enlightening and heartening than our meetings with members of the public who shared their observations, concerns, and vision for a reformed and reinvigorated police service. The vast majority of people we talked to support their police and are committed to working with them to address crime and quality of life in their communities.
Our report contains a comprehensive reform programme and will only succeed if implemented as a package. We have highlighted a number of recommendations that are critical for early progress and momentum. We have also recommended an approach to implementation that includes an independent Chairperson, but is otherwise embedded in key departments and agencies, to ensure collective ownership of delivery.
We believe that 2022 is a realistic target date for policing to be substantially transformed. It is also symbolically important as the year in which the 100th Anniversary of the founding of a police service for the Irish State will be celebrated. A policing service created for a new country a hundred years ago can be recreated for a new world. Now is the time to do it.
I would like to end by acknowledging and thanking my fellow Commissioners for their wisdom and dedication to this task over the past sixteen months. It was indeed a privilege to work with such an extraordinary team and I sincerely thank my colleagues as well as our dedicated Secretariat staff. I would like to pay particular tribute to Sinéad Ryan, who served as Secretary to the Commission, Deirdre Meenan as Deputy Secretary, and also to acknowledge the key input of Bob Peirce, former Secretary to the Patten Commission, who was an adviser to this Commission.
Our work is now done, and it is in the hands of Government, the Oireachtas and An Garda Síochána to make it a reality.