‘Look out for text kisses and flirting’: Garda policy orders officers to report colleagues for inappropriate relationships
Look out for text kisses and flirting’: Garda policy orders officers to report colleagues for inappropriate relationships
A NEW GARDA policy is being introduced which means officers who suspect colleagues of having a romantic relationship with a member of the public must inform the new anti-corruption unit of their suspicions. © Shutterstock Damien Storan
The rules will apply to gardaí as well as civilian staff and part of the guidelines cover what to do if a garda suspects a witness or someone they are involved with professionally is attracted to them.
It also addresses what officers should do if they find themselves developing a romantic attraction to a member of the public with whom they are working.
The policy is part of the scope of the new Garda Anti-Corruption Unit (GACU) which has been set up to tackle wrongdoing within the force.
Part of the document sets out exactly how gardaí are to report their colleagues if they suspect an abuse of power for sexual gain is ongoing.
Gardaí have been told to watch out for several things:
- Where unexpected ‘welfare checks’ are made by a garda
- Improper physical contact
- Flirtatious behaviour
- Nicknames/pet names
- Unnecessary communication such as on social media
- Kisses on the end of messages or other sexualised comments
- Sexually inappropriate contact with colleagues
The new policy states that even the element of suspicion “is sufficient to report the concerns of garda personnel to the Garda Anti Corruption Unit (GACU).”
Gardaí have been given the option of reporting colleagues they suspect by using a confidential anti-corruption line.
Investigating gardaí can then access the officer’s IT systems and garda phone to ascertain if they are having an inappropriate relationship.
Gardaí will also be warned to be aware that an “imbalance of power” exists between them and members of the public and that they should be mindful that any sexual contact may be considered a breach of this policy.
The policy says that any breach of this policy will be aggravated if the person the garda is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with is considered vulnerable.
Victims of rape, domestic abuse, children and those with intellectual disabilities are some of the people who would fall under this category.
The policy will also warn gardaí that they are banned from conducting their own research using the internal Garda Pulse system to check if a member of the public fits into that “vulnerable” category.
The policy says any member of the garda staff, be they civilian or a sworn member, must inform the GACU if they suspect a member of the public is attempting to pursue a sexual relationship.
The GACU went live in November and comprises 11 members of An Garda Síochána. It is expected to expand to 30 members by the end of this year.
Garda policy now also states that officers who find themselves becoming attracted to someone with whom they are in contact with as part of their duties should “not act on these feelings”.
Garda staff have also been warned that ending a professional relationship with someone in order to pursue a romantic relationship with them instead is also not allowed.
Another aspect of the new garda policy surrounds romantic relationships between officers of a different rank and the problems that this can cause. For example, the policy states that gardaí may feel they are unable to turn down the advances of a senior member because if they were to do so it could negatively impact their career. Officers have been urged to report instances of this to GACU.
The policy is to be reviewed in 12 months time and every three years thereafter.
A spokesman for An Garda Síochána said: “A number of counter corruption policies are currently being developed by An Garda Síochána in line with international best practice, including an Abuse of Power for Sexual Gain Policy.”