Laois Offaly Garda Chief deployed to Kildare as part of big policing changes

New three-county division in the making

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Email:

news@leinsterexpress.ie

Portlaoise Garda Station

Portlaoise Garda Station

The big shake-up in policing structures looks set to see Kildare, Laois and Offaly merged into a new Garda Division with the first steps already in train.

Laois Offaly Division Garda Chief Superintendent John Scanlan confirmed to the Leinster Express that he has been deployed as the acting Chief Superintendent of the Kildare Division.

He confirmed that he assumed the role in August following the transfer of the former Kilder Chief Super to another post. Chief Supt Scanlan will remain responsible for the Laois Offaly Division.

Chief Super Scanlan confirmed that he was awaiting further details on other changes. Asked if he or other senior colleagues in Divisions were consulted on the changes, the garda said he was not.

It is understood that the move is the first step in the creation of a new division which would be made up of 1,000 police and civilian staff. The Division would take in a population of nearly 400,000 people bordering Dublin, Connacht and Munster counties. 

It has yet to be decided where the Divisional HQ will be for Laois, Offaly and Kildare. It is possible that Portlaoise could be designated as the location due to its geographical position and the presence of a large prison complex in the town.

However, no decision has been reached at this point. Portlaoise Garda Station is in line for significant redevelopment.

It is understood that the changes could see a reduction in senior gardaí in the three counties and the redeployment of officers who are on non-frontline duties.

The changes are part of extensive changes to policing structures which will see a big cut in the number of Garda Divisions.

A statement from Garda HQ outlined some of the changes proposed which were described as 'improvements to its structures, processes, services and governance".

Garda HQ claim that the changes will increase the number of front-line Gardaí, deliver a more localised service to communities and maximise the organisation’s operational impact.

Headquarters claim that, under this model, decision making for policing delivery will be devolved from the centre to the regions and divisions.

It says divisions will increase in size, will be operationally autonomous, and will be the key to policing delivery.

It is claimed that a Division will be typically made up of around 600 to 800 personnel.

"This will ensure each Division has the resources and skills to deliver a wider range of community policing and specialist services based on the demand in their area.

"Regions and divisions will have greater control over how policing is delivered while working to a corporate framework and oversight from the centre. The focus of the centre will be on supporting regions and divisions.

HQ says the reduction in Divisions from 28 to 19 will now commence on a phased basis. The new structure will be implemented throughout 2020.

This process has already started as part of the implementation of A Policing Service for the Future with the introduction of the new local policing model in four Divisions – Kevin Street, Cork city, Galway and Mayo.

It will continue on Monday, August 26 with the new regional structure of four regions.

Garda HQ say it includes restructuring at national, regional and local levels. It is claimed that the changes will provide a greater focus on community policing based on local needs.

It is also claimed that the changes will mean greater supervision, better resources, less paperwork, and more career opportunities for members and staff. Headquarters also believe it will make best use of an expanding workforce and investment in ICT.

The statement continued: "There will be a reduction in administrative structures, the introduction of community policing teams dedicated to working with communities to identify and tackle problem crimes in their area, a greater range of specialised services such as economic crime and cyber-crime being delivered locally, and enhanced local investigation of serious crimes and crimes against the vulnerable such as sexual crime".

Headquarters also claim the changes will mean increased numbers of Gardaí working on the frontline. It says that from 2017 to 2019, 2,090 Gardaí have been recruited to date and a further 478 have been re-deployed to the front-line. It is expected that from now until end of 2021 that a further 1,500 Garda members will be recruited and an additional 1,000 Gardaí re-assigned to the front-line.

In addition, from 2017 to 2019, 1,070 Garda staff have been recruited and a further 1,265 are expected to recruited by end of 2021.

Commissioner Drew Harris said: "These improvements will allow us to increase the number of Gardaí at the front-line and enhance community policing. Reduced bureaucracy and ICT initiatives combined with an increase in Garda members and Garda staff will increase Garda visibility in communities. It will mean Gardaí at all ranks will have more time to engage with local communities and stakeholders to help keep people safe.

"These changes will deliver a more visible, localised and responsive policing service. What won’t change though is the strong connection we have with local communities.”

The statement said the model has been recommended by both the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and the Garda Inspectorate.

It is claimed that this echoes the views of our personnel gathered through extensive consultation. The restructure reflects international policing best practice as well as the realities of modern-day policing in Ireland, the changing nature of crime, and population trends.