THE Garda Síochána Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 is as welcome as it is long overdue. Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, launching the programme, said that ‘the next five years will see An Garda Síochána become a 21st century police and security service the people of our country can be proud of and our people can be proud to serve in.’
This modernisation plan, coming over a decade and a half into the century, is so badly needed and will give the force access to technology that other police services take for granted nowadays, including automatic number plate recognition and facial recognition. It is intended that every aspect of investigations will be electronically recorded, which should lead to the type of transparency necessary to restore the trust of the public, lost in recent years due of an obsessive culture of secrecy.
The Policing Authority has also welcomed the commitment to placing victims at the heart of the Garda service. The other big strand of the strategy is crime prevention and working with communities and sharing intelligence with other forces feed into this.
Policing is ultimately done by people, not machines, and Garda personnel will also have to be seen on the beat and not spend all their time on electronic devices. The new technology will require training and the co-operation of members, amongst whom morale is low at the moment, so pay and conditions will have to be looked at and resolved satisfactorily in order to facilitate its implementation.