THE Cork West Garda Division has now received seven new garda recruits in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
Of the seven, two are now stationed in Clonakilty, two in Bandon, two in Bantry and one in Macroom. Four of them started three weeks ago, while the final three arrived two weeks ago to take up their new positions.
They were attested last month along with 312 new gardaí at Templemore Garda College, making it the largest number of sworn gardaí in the history of the State.
The Southern Region is taking in 80 new gardaí in total who are all part of the force’s range of measures to maximise their operational availability and support other vital service in responding to the evolving Covid-19 crisis.
The Division has also received five new community vehicles to assist and support people.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Chief Supt Con Cadogan said he welcomes these new recruits and said additional numbers to the force are always gratefully received.
‘With Covid-19 now we are extremely active out in communities and these new members will be utilised out there. With this crisis we are also supporting the GP’s and chemists,’ said Chief Supt Cadogan.
‘We have lessons to learn from what happened in Italy. I’ve been talking to some of our colleagues in Italy and across various police forces and we can’t underestimate the social distancing aspect of this. This is huge.’
Gardaí across the division have been making regular trips to chemists to deliver medicine for those who are elderly or self-isolating at home.
‘We’re aware at the moment that 80% to 85% of consultations with doctors and GPs is done over the phone and they are a valued commodity in our community so we have to protect them and we don’t want to lose them. Therefore, we are supporting these people.’
With doctors emailing prescriptions to garda offices, the gardaí themselves have been delivering medicines to homes across the divisions.
‘The majority of people are abiding by the health advice and it’s a huge thanks that people are taking on board the HSE advice. The difficulty in Italy and Germany arose because people didn’t abide by the the social distancing requirements.’
The Covid-19 crisis has also bought about organisational changes to the force including restricting annual leave, amendments to rosters and the redeployment of 124 personnel from the Garda Training College – with 56 garda members redeployed to the Southern region.
‘All our members are doing 12-hour shifts instead of 10, and we have a business contingency plan for all our stations in the event of one of our stations going down, so there is a back-up process in place.
‘All our members are actually paired so the same two undertake the same shift, and if they come into contact with someone with the virus it means we will lose only two members from service, rather than losing a whole unit, if they have to go into self-isolation.’
He added that a number of members have had to go for testing but so far they have all been clear of the virus.
All garda patrol cars are carrying protective equipment as well as wipes and hand sanitisers, and he thanked Ballineen company, Carbery Group for their great support in getting them started with hand sanitisers.
‘We need to learn from Italy and social distancing is vital and the next few weeks are going to be critical,’ he said.
‘I think we will have a fair indication of where we stand soon and hopefully we have got in ahead of the curve to flatten that peak.’
New restrictive public health measures announced by the Government mean that gardaí are now patrolling towns, villages, beaches and parks to ensure people are abiding by the restrictions.
‘We are already patrolling all amenities in the division to ensure people are observing physical and social distancing.’
Gardaí on the frontline will also be issued with ‘spit hoods’ to prevent arrested suspects from spitting or coughing on them.
There were several reports around the country in recent weeks of people coughing on both members of the public and gardaí, claiming they had the coronavirus.
In the meantime, gardaí are carrying out their regular duties and Chief Supt Cadogan noted over a period of four days three weeks ago, there was only one reported burglary across the Cork City and Cork West Division and that individual was caught ‘red-handed.’
‘Crime obviously doesn’t stop, but you find that a lot of people are now working remotely from home so incidences of burglaries may not be as common.’