My submission as a member of the Joint Policing Committee to the Annual Policing Plan – December 2020

Submission for Policing Plan 2021

Dedicated Community Policing Unit

That we continue to identify trends in respect of anti social behaviour in order to determine appropriate allocations. 
As the most populous town in the area, Newbridge needs a dedicated Community Policing Unit. At the moment there are 2 Community Policing Gardaí, one in Athy and one in Newbridge. While the guard in Newbridge is carrying out all the duties of a community guard and is highly regarded and very well liked within the community, he is not appointed as a community guard. Plans for the allocation of gardaí around the district should be informed both by the trends as suggested in the Policing Plan for 2020 and by the National Model of Community Policing. Taking all of that into consideration, together with extensive feedback and desperate appeals  from the community and from gardaí themselves, we need at least 4 dedicated CPU gardai for Newbridge and 1 dedicated CPU Sergeant. We need a holistic, interagency approach to some of the issues we have in and around Newbridge. Community policing is consistent with, and informed by, a human rights approach to policing within communities. We are lucky to have a number of excellent agencies and a community, all of whom are eager to engage and create relationships that can facilitate a holistic approach to making our communities safer and healthy places for young people to grow and develop and for adults to survive and thrive. Covid19 has amplified some areas that benefit from an interagency approach including the significant increase in domestic violence calls earlier in 2020. Some of that interagency work has already started initiated at council level and a dedicated Community Policing Unit would provide the continuity required to build the relationships and the trust necessary for a successful and effective delivery of the policing plan for 2021. 

Dedicated Drugs Unit

In line with section 2.4.1 of the 2020 Policing Plan for controlled drugs, I support the continuation of the policy to ‘ identify trends in respect of drug crime to determine appropriate allocation of resources’. Based on evidence of the last 3-5 years and on feedback from residents, the community, businesses and the guards themselves, we need a dedicated Drugs Unit head quartered in Newbridge, working alongside the Community Policing Unit . We need a minimum of 6 regular guards preferably with experience of working in a drugs unit, for a dedicated Drugs Unit head quartered in Newbridge. The unit requires at least one dedicated supervisory Sergeant. The current Sergeant is now part-time as he has other duties in Athy.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our local gardaí, not just in my own district but all over the county for all their hard work and commitment.  For decades, our gardaí in Kildare have been asked to do more with less resources than almost every single county in Ireland. It is a key moment and opportunity to address the inequity that has been tolerated historically in relation to the allocation of policing resources for Kildare. It’s time to get ourselves off the bottom of the list for policing resources. It’s no longer acceptable to celebrate as progress the allocation of any new gardaí to Kildare, when typically it is doing little more than maintaining the status quo eg replacing retiring members. We need to start really catching up, because our communities, our towns are suffering as a result. Newbridge has had one of the lowest numbers of gardaí per garda unit, for a town of its size. And we are seeing, both in terms of crime figures and in the feedback from people living in the area, the impact of a stretched police force. We need at least 8 regular gardaí per unit. A new Chief Superintendant with his stated commitment to the ethos of Community Policing, informed by an evidenced based and targeted approach to policing, bodes well for addressing the decades old issue of Kildare being allocated less policing resources than it needs, and deserves. 

I welcome the Chief Superintendant’s commitment to a Community Policing ethos. As outlined above, models of community policing strongly suggest that a town the size of Newbridge warrants a dedicated Community Policing Unit. If the compelling figures and arguments for a dedicated Community Policing Unit for Newbridge are rejected for a more generalist approach, as a minimum, the Community Policing Strategy for the district must be absolutely clear in how it frames, co-ordinates, and quantifies the activities and measurable outcomes of a generalist approach. It must be able to answer the question, how do we know what we are doing is working? The Community Policing Strategy must address the question of how we measure the success of a general Community Policing ethos vs having no Community ethos vs what can be achieved in terms of prevention, relationship building and the continuity derived from a dedicated Community Policing Unit approach. 

The Garda Code of Ethics Commitments.  

In terms of integrity and transparency and improvements sought around policing and engagement both within the gardaí and within  local authorities – I believe it would be helpful to have a register of calls/communications between the Chief Executive of Kildare County Council and the Chief Superintendant. It would greatly  improve transparency and provide an insight into the types of issues that arise and are discussed between meetings of the Joint Policing Committee.  As a minimum, and if it is not already a practice, minutes should be recorded of the Joint Policing Committee’s Steering Group meetings. Secondly and based on personal experience, a register of communications/calls between the Chief Executive and the Chief Superintendent and the purpose of the call  ( in as general a way as is necessary to protect an individual’s rights) would significantly improve transparency around the communications between the Council and the local policing district.