LAST week’s passing-out ceremony at the Garda Training College in Templemore saw the graduation of 201 newly-attested members of An Garda Síochána, bringing the total number across all ranks up to 14,467, the largest number of sworn Garda members in 10 years.
There is still some way to go to achieve like-for-like parity as the population of the country has increased by 8.6% in the past decade.
Nevertheless, the increase in numbers is welcome as the force enters an era of change to leave behind its past failures and to reflect modern society with new policing methods. As well as swelling the number of rank and file gardaí, vacancies up the ranks are being filled with the largest ever number of inspectors and the largest number at sergeant rank in 10 years.
The increases in inspectors and sergeants expand the forces’s supervisory capacity, which was badly needed. It should enable the organisation to drive on the delivery of community-focused policing as part of the garda operating model.
As caretaker Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan pointed out at the passing-out ceremony, effective policing depends on securing the confidence, support and co-operation of communities. Gardaí have to earn that for themselves, their colleagues and the organisation through every single one of their interactions and he urged them to ‘interact well and wisely.’
There has also been an increase in detective numbers to 2,181, the largest amount ever in An Garda Síochána, but Commissioner Drew Harris acknowledged that a shortfall exists in the Cork area, especially in the Divisional Protective Services Unit, and he pledged to address this. He also promised ‘a major operation’ to tackle drug-dealing and we have seen its prevalence here on our own doorstep in West Cork in recent weeks.