The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell T.D., today released details of the proposals by the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Noel Conroy, for the Garda Síochána Reserve

The Commissioner's document makes a number of points clear:

In response to the Garda Commissioner's proposals, which are set out in detail below, the Minister stated:

"I am extremely impressed with the comprehensive nature of the proposals for the Garda Síochána Reserve made to me by the Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy.  The proposals envisage a thoroughly-trained Reserve with carefully selected powers and duties, working under the supervision of members of the Garda Síochána.  I will now draw up the necessary regulations for Government approval, and I will consult the Garda Representative Associations on the detail of those regulations.

I know that opposition to the Garda Reserve has been expressed by some of the Garda Representative Associations.  If this reflects a genuine concern or misunderstanding about the nature of a Garda Reserve and how it will work in support of the Garda Síochána, I believe that the detailed proposals of the Commissioner, and the consultations I will have with the Representative Associations, will answer any reasonable questions there may be.  If, however, this effectively amounts to opposition to the principle of a Garda Reserve, the fact of the matter is that the principle has been democratically approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas and must be respected.   The Representative Associations are bound to accept the will of the Oireachtas on this issue, and I am bound to implement it.  I therefore call on the Representative Associations to respond to my commitment to consultation on the regulations which I will draw up, and to engage positively in that process.

I want to emphasise that the Garda Reserve will be a supplementary support, and emphatically not a replacement, for Gardaí.  Proof of this is the current increase in the strength of the Force from 12,000 to 14,000 members.  This programme is well under way and will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year.  The Garda budget is also at an all time high.  This year's allocation of Euro1.29 billion represents an increase of 13% on the allocation for 2005.  It includes provision of over Euro83 million for overtime, an increase of Euro23 million on last year's allocation, which will yield over 2.7 million hours of Garda overtime for frontline policing throughout the State.

The Garda Reserve will be a valuable additional support for the Garda Síochána.  It will enhance its capacity to respond to emerging policing challenges and will reinforce its links with local communities.  It has the support of the Oireachtas and, I believe, the support of the public".

During the passage of the Garda Síochána Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas, very extensive consideration was given to the issue of establishing a Garda Reserve and the provisions of the Bill were amended to reflect an overwhelming consensus among Government and Opposition deputies that the creation of such a reserve was a necessary and important component of the radical and far-reaching reform of the force to ensure a modern, professional police force for the Irish state in the 21st century.

For the record, it should be noted that the major opposition party called for the Garda Reserve to have a strength of 5000 members and suggested that the provisions of the Bill as introduced which would have delayed the creation of the force until one year had elapsed from the passing of the Act should be deleted.

During the passage of the legislation, members of the Oireachtas all-party joint committee on justice matters personally visited the United Kingdom to see how the police reserve functioned in Britain. Again, the overwhelming consensus among those members was to the effect that the creation of a reserve in Ireland was appropriate and valuable.

"As Minister with responsibility for the legislation, I had engaged in a lengthy public consultation on the legislation both inside and outside the Oireachtas.

I listened very carefully to the views of all members of the Oireachtas on this issue and carefully amended the legislation to give effect to their views.

I have spoken to the Taoiseach and we are determined that the will of the Oireachtas and the Government will be implemented. We are equally determined that those with a direct interest in the matter, such as the representative associations, should be given a fair and reasonable consultation process about the way in which the reserve will be formed and deployed.

Now that I have received and considered the Commissioner's submission, I  am, as promised, inviting the representative associations to enter into discussions with me as to how those proposals will be put into effect in a manner which will enhance and strengthen the Garda Síochána, deepen its roots within the community, and raise the public's confidence in the force.

I have always indicated that I will implement the wishes of the Oireachtas and the law of the land in a manner that accords with and respects principles of partnership and on the basis of full consultation.

I have also consistently pointed out that I was obliged to await receipt of the Commissioner's submission before I could engage in meaningful consultation on the establishment of a Garda reserve.

The decision in principle, however, was made by the Oireachtas. The Commissioner has made his submission. Now is the time for consultation on the implementation of that decision and the proposals contained in the submission.

 

Strengthening the Community Roots of the Garda

I would point out that the immense demographic and social changes which we are witnessing in Irish society have not left the Garda Síochána unaffected.

Communities are frequently policed by members of the force who daily commute 30 miles or more to carry out their tour of duty. That is inevitable in modern conditions. But there is a price to be paid for such changed circumstances. The Force is in danger of becoming detached from the community. Its members are in danger of becoming relative strangers to the community they police.

The Garda Reserve is not simply intended to help the force in discharging its tasks.

It is intended to give the community a sense of linkage and ownership in respect of the force. It is intended to counter-act a sense of alienation and drifting apart between the community and the Garda Síochána which has been increasingly expressed to public representatives right across the country by ordinary citizens of good will towards the force.

 

No Threat To Professionalism Or Status

The creation of a Garda Reserve fully trained to the highest international standards for reservists in no way detracts from the professionalism or vocation of full-time, professional Gardaí.

International experience in common law countries strongly refutes the suggestion that the status or professionalism of full-time police officers is threatened or compromised in any way by the creation of a voluntary reserve. The self-esteem or status of officers in those countries would in no way be enhanced or strengthened if the voluntary reservists were dispensed with. There is simply no credible evidence that the existence of a voluntary reserve has had any of the negative effects on those forces that are now being canvassed in respect of the Garda Síochána. I would imagine that if there were such evidence we would have heard it by now.

Nor does the existence of a voluntary reserve of officers and men in the Defence Forces detract in any way from the status or self-esteem of the full-time officers and men of that service. On the contrary, it has gained the PDF many, many valuable friends and allies in Irish society at a local and national level. It has strengthened the roots of the Army in the broader community.  I am very confident that it would do the same for the Garda Síochána.

 

No Substitute For Full Time Strength

I have constantly emphasised that the creation of a Garda Reserve is in no way intended to substitute for a full-time force with adequate numbers. For that very reason, I have not acted in relation to a reserve until I was absolutely satisfied that the Government commitment to increase the force to 14,000 would be fully implemented.

That is happening now.

By December of this year, as a result of a major recruitment drive, the number of full-time Gardaí fully attested or in training will reach 14,000. And the full-time, fully attested strength of the force will reach 14,000 by the end of 2007.

And, if needs be, I will recommend to Government that the full time strength of the force will be raised even further in the light of progress with civilianisation and in the light of population trends once the current expansion is completed.

I heard a GRA spokesman on radio today suggest that 90 additional Gardaí would be better value than 900 reservists.

Let me make this comment. 90 additional Gardaí would man seventeen 24-hour posts in all (at the current ratio of 5.2 Gardaí to every 24 hour position). That would allow for less than one full-time Garda on duty on such a posting at any given time per county!

By completely abandoning the idea of a reserve force, that logic offers us in exchange that many counties would see no change at all; and the rest would see the force being capable of manning just one extra post per county on a 24 hour basis.

In any event, the full-time force is being expanded as rapidly as possible as things stand.

There is no question of there being a trade-off between the optimum strength of the full-time Gardaí  and the creation of a reserve. They are complementary - not substitutes for each other."

 

Legal background

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a Garda Síochána Reserve.  The Act specifies that, before any members are appointed, the Garda Commissioner must first submit proposals to the Minister on the training of Reserve members, and the Minister must make regulations on that training, as well as on recruitment and general terms and conditions of appointment.  It also provides that no person may be appointed to the Reserve unless he or she had completed the prescribed training.

Under the Act, Reserve members have, while on duty, the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as Gardaí, but this is subject to a determination by the Garda Commissioner of the powers to be exercised and the duties to be carried out by them.  

 

Proposal to establish Garda Reserve

In July 2005, following the enactment of the Garda Síochána Act, the Garda Commissioner wrote to the Minister proposing a Garda Reserve of 4,000 members.  By way of response, and in the context of advising the Garda Commissioner of the Government's policing priorities for 2006, the Minister set the objective of recruiting 900 Reserve members by September of this year.

 

Outline of Garda Commissioner's proposals

The Garda Commissioner has now submitted his proposals on the training, powers and duties of Reserve members, and the Minister will now draw up the necessary regulations for the approval of Government under the Act.  As part of that process the Minister will engage in consultations with the Garda Representative Associations on the detail of the proposals.

 

Background to Garda Commissioner's proposals

In his proposals, the Garda Commissioner notes that the Garda Reserve will be a supplementary service to the Garda Síochána and similar to that of the Special Constabulary in the United Kingdom.  In particular, the Commissioner states:

"The Garda Reserve will be a voluntary unpaid body drawn from the community to assist the existing Service at times when extra personnel are required.  Reserve Gardaí will have full Garda powers while on duty and perform the policing duties as determined by the Commissioner under the supervision of, and supported by, regular Garda members.  The principal role of the Reserve will consist of local patrols and crime reduction initiatives, targeted at specific local urban or rural problem areas.   They can also expect to be involved in policing major incidents and events, and in providing other operational support to regular Garda members on the basis of an individual Garda Reserves skills or local knowledge. They will be expected to provide an appropriate efficient response and provide a quality service at all times and are a manifest sign of partnership between the Garda and the local community."

 

Recruitment and Selection

The Garda Commissioner will establish a dedicated Implementation Project Board, together with a dedicated office to manage the recruitment, selection, training and appointment of the Garda Reserve.  

 

Eligibility

The Garda Commissioner proposes that the criteria for entry to the Garda Reserve, in respect of character, educational qualifications, nationality and residence, will be the same as for the Garda Síochána.  Reserve members will have to be between 18 and 57, with an extension up to 60 for retired members of the Garda Síochána.    Reserve members will also have to be certified by a registered medical practitioner, nominated by the Commissioner, to be of good health, of sound constitution and fitted physically and mentally to perform the duties of a member of the Service.

 

Training

The Garda Commissioner proposes that training will consist of a comprehensive training programme of five phases as follows (with ex-members of the Garda Síochána needing only to complete the first phase):

"Phase One - a two-day induction course held at the Garda College or a suitable alternative location in the regions over a weekend.  Phase One will permit Reserve Gardaí to appreciate the Garda Organisation and its culture.

 

Phase Two - This will constitute 56 hours training at weekends / evenings over an eight week period at regional centres which will be established based on the needs of each region.   During this time the Reserve Garda will learn basic law and Garda procedures, which will include:

 

Phase Three - two days at the Garda College or regional centre over a weekend.

 

Phase Four - minimum of 40 hours over 10 weeks at a nominated Garda station.

 

Phase Five - one day graduation day at the Garda College."

 

Uniform/equipment

On the issue of uniforms and equipment, the Garda Commissioner proposes the following:

"The uniform of the Garda Reserve will not differ to that currently in use by An Garda Síochána.

However there will be a difference in the markings on the uniform, which will allow the Reserve members to be easily identified.  A two-letter designation, GR (Garda Reserve) together with a Divisional identification and a number, will be worn by the members of the Garda Reserve.  This number will serve both as a personal warrant and a visual identification number.  Each Division will be allocated a series of warrant numbers for issue to its Garda Reserve members.  Currently members of Garda and Sergeant rank wear their individual District number on both shoulders of all uniform issue. This requirement will also apply to Reserve Gardaí.  The personal warrant number will be utilised on the PULSE or Command and Control computer systems for identification purposes. Eg GR123SC is a Garda Reserve attached to the DMR South Central Division. 

For health and safety reasons, Reserve Gardaí will be issued with the same equipment as regular Gardaí. This will include handcuffs and batons.  Each Reserve Garda will receive training in the use of such equipment."

 

Deployment/duties

The Garda Commissioner and the Minister have agreed that Reserve members will not be deployed in their own neighbourhoods.

The Commissioner has proposed specific duties for Reserve members as follows:
 
"Reserve Gardaí will carry out duties (minimum 208 hours per annum) as directed by the District Officer and will report to line management in a like manner as a member of the regular Service.   Each member of the Garda Reserve will perform a minimum of sixteen (16) hours duty per roster, each tour being of a minimum of four (4) hours duration.   (13 rosters in a twelve-month period).   The tours of duty performed will take into account the policing requirements of the area concerned as well as the employment requirements of the individual Garda Reserve member.

The Commissioner, in accordance with Section 15(5) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, has determined that the initial duties of a Reserve Garda are as outlined hereunder:-

  1. Station Duty, other than the care and custody of prisoners.
  2. Assistant to the Station Orderly.
  3. Communications room duty, to include monitoring CCTV.
  4. Foot patrol, accompanied by a member of the permanent Garda Service.
  5. Static Security duty.
  6. Road Traffic checkpoint duties, accompanied by a full time member.
  7. Duty at the outer cordon of major events such as festivals and major sporting events.
  8. Assisting in the event of accidents, fires and major emergencies.
  9. Giving evidence in Court.
  10. Community / Neighbourhood Policing.
  11. The Commissioner may, on an incremental basis, subject to training, increase the range of duties carried out by members of the Garda Reserve.

Reserve Gardaí will patrol only when accompanied by a member of the permanent Garda Service. 

Reserve Gardaí are prohibited from performing plain-clothes duty of any kind.   If they were to carry out this duty it would defeat the aspiration for enhanced uniform visibility.  They are also prohibited from serving in specialist units, carrying firearms or driving official vehicles."

 

Access to PULSE

The Garda Commissioner proposes that Reserve members will be able to carry out the following functions on PULSE (the Garda computer system):

  1. Inputting driving licence/insurance details
  2. Vehicle checks
  3. Update vehicle status 
  4. Warrant searches 

No access to intelligence entries on PULSE will be permitted.  All access to PULSE will be strictly controlled by the Information Technology Division, based on personal warrant number. 

 

Liaison Officers

Divisional Liaison Officers of Superintendent / Inspector Rank, with specific responsibility for the Garda Reserve, will be appointed to coordinate the Garda Reserve and to assist their integration into the regular service. 

 

Policing powers

The Garda Commissioner proposes that the powers of Reserve members will be confined to the enforcement of the following Acts:

  1. Road Traffic Acts - Demand Driving Licence and Insurance, seat belts, etc.
  2. Public Order Act - Intoxication, threatening behaviour, disorderly conduct and failure to comply with direction of member of An Garda Síochána
  3. Theft Act - Theft and Burglary
  4. The Criminal Law Act 1997

 

Expenses/allowances

While no salary will payable to Reserve members, the Garda Commissioner has proposed the following payments:

"Payments for appearance at Courts: Witness expenses will be paid for attendance at Court outside working hours.  It is anticipated that the procedures that apply for the payment of civilian witness expenses in DPP cases will similarly apply for members of the Garda Reserve.  In any other cases, provision will be made in the Garda Budget. 

Payment of allowance:  A modest annual allowance, covering travelling and miscellaneous expenses will be paid as this is the most appropriate and efficient way to reimburse Garda Reserve members for expenses incurred.  The amount to be determined."

 

Employment terms and conditions

The Garda Commissioner proposes the following terms and conditions of employment:

Ineligible Occupations and Activity

The following are occupations ineligible for entry into the Garda Reserve:

  1. Persons subject to military law or likely to be subject to military law
  2. Officers of the court
  3. Probation officers
  4. Bailiffs, warrant officers, private detectives and inquiry agents
  5. Prison officers
  6. Any person who is actively involved as a member of a political party
  7. Occupations with client privilege
  8. Holder of a licence for the sale of intoxicating liquor
  9. Holder of a licence for public dancing
  10. Holder of a bookmaker's licence
  11. Holder of a licence or permit which is issued by the Circuit or District Court or the Revenue Commissioners or the Garda Síochána involving gain to the holder
  12. For reward or personal gain managing or conducting or assisting in the management or conducting of a concern or premises which is required by law to be operated under a licence, permit or certificate, the grant of which may be opposed by the Garda Síochána
  13. For reward engaging personally in any part-time employment such as that of security officer or private investigator, in the course of which there is a likelihood that the member's office as a member of the Service or Garda powers shall be called upon
  14. Acting as directors or secretaries of security firms, or being concerned in any way in security work, as a spare-time activity
  15. Serving summonses either as a spare time activity or otherwise than in accordance with Rule 46.1 of the District Court Rules

 

Grade

One rank, that of Reserve Garda, will apply at operational level in the Garda Reserve.  

An honorary post, that of Chief Officer, will also be created.  This post has been particularly beneficial in the UK, both from a motivational and strategic level.  It was of particular benefit in Manchester at the time of the PIRA bomb outrages.  The Chief Officer activated the Special Constabulary and liased with the regular Service in respect of their deployment.  The Chief Officer holds a senior position in informal terms and when necessary has direct access to the Chief Constable / Commissioner representing the rank and file Garda Reserve members. 

A nominal allowance will be payable.  In the UK, the Chief Officer is usually a person who has given long service to the Special Constabulary and is paid £3000 per annum as an expense allowance. 

As there is no history of a Reserve in the State, the Chief Officer of the Garda Reserve person could be a retired Officer of An Garda Síochána, of the rank of Chief Superintendent or above.  Alternatively it could be an experienced business person. 

 

Probation

A Reserve Garda will serve a two-year probationary period.  Assessment will be by the District Officer on an annual basis.

 

Retirement

A compulsory retirement age of 65 years will apply.

 

Resignation

Where a member of the Garda Reserve is no longer available to undertake the duties of a Reserve Gardahe shall resign from the Garda Reserve.   Such resignation shall be accepted by the Divisional Officer in whose area he is allocated.

 

State Property

All state property including notebooks shall be returned on discharge from the Garda Reserve.

 

Employers

Where a Reserve Gardais in regular employment, a service level agreement will be drawn up between An Garda Síochána and the employer in question. This will include an information pack for the employer from An Garda Síochána."

 

Discipline

The Garda Commissioner proposes that Reserve members, when on duty and in uniform, will be subject to a similar code of discipline as applies to the regular Service.  The current Garda Síochána Discipline Regulations, which are under review, will have to be adapted to provide for the establishment of the Garda Reserve.

 

Pilot

The integration of the Garda Reserve will initially be piloted in selected stations.