New report Garda watchdog raises ‘serious concerns’ over substance misuse within the force
The Garda Inspectorate said that that substance misuse procedures need to be introduced.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin
March 25 2021 02:58 PM
The Garda Inspectorate has said there are “serious concerns” over drug use within the gardaí and that substance misuse procedures need to be introduced.
It is one of 34 recommendations made by the Garda watchdog contained in its inspection on the threat of internal corruption within the organisation.
In the report – Countering the Threat of Internal Corruption – A review of counter-corruption structures, strategies and processes in the Garda Síochána – the Inspectorate found that:
:: There should be restrictions on where gardaí can work after leaving the force;
:: The vetting of recruits should include credit checks, financial intelligence and reviews of social media;
:: There are concerns about the capacity of the new Anti-Corruption Unit to investigate cases, and;
:: There are concerns about the gardaí’s ability to deal with members who abuse their power for sexual gain.
Good practices were also identified in the report, including regular security reviews of garda property stores, and conflict-of-interest declarations in HR selection and procurement.
It has been welcomed by both the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister, who said an implementation plan will be developed by the autumn.
Commissioner Drew Harris
A primary concern within the report was the issue of drug use within the gardaí and the impediments to introduce effective testing programmes, including the cost of testing and the risk of legal challenges.
The Inspectorate said it “consulted widely at all levels of the Garda Síochána about the issue of substance misuse and the use of illicit drugs among the garda workforce was acknowledged as a serious concern”.
Issues with alcohol abuse and the misuse of prescription drugs was also raised.
The Garda watchdog has recommended that substance misuse as well as testing policies and procedures should be introduced.
The first step, it said, would be that all new entrants undergo mandatory pre-employment testing as a condition.
In a review of store management, it praised the systems in place by garda divisions, but said that there were some notable issues raised.
In one case, a difference of €18,000 was discovered between the value recorded at the time of a cash seizure, compared to when it was audited.
The report said that all property stores should have adequate systems, processes and facilities to achieve the safe and secure management of property.
In one of three recommendations to the Department of Justice (DOJ), it noted that it should carry out a review of the gardaí’s post-employment activities.
This, the Inspectorate said, was to develop suitable rules to reduce the risk of a conflict of interest when gardaí leave the organisation.
The report also found that there is no co-ordinated strategy to identify gardaí abusing power for sexual gain.
It accepted that, while such instances are likely to be rare when compared internationally, this has resulted in gaps in the sources of intelligence on sexual misconduct.
It also said that gardaí should proactively monitor and audit IT systems to identify those trying to sexually exploit people they have met in a professional capacity.
In relation to external investigations, it recommended that the DOJ implement a framework to ensure all such instances of sexual violence or abuse of power are referred for independent investigation.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she was particularly focused on addressing the weaknesses relating to abuse of power for sexual gain.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
“This type of behaviour is abhorrent and any risk of it arising cannot be tolerated in our police service. As a community, we look to An Garda Síochána to offer us protection when we need it most and it is crucial that victims of crime feel safe and secure in their interactions with An Garda Síochána,” she said.
Last November, a new Garda Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) was launched, with a review taking place after 12 months to determine if they will be assigned to conduct all internal criminal and discipline investigations.
The Inspectorate said there was a continued risk of the ACU’s ability to capture and analyse intelligence on corruption due to existing structures effectively bypassing the unit.
“As a result, the Inspectorate believes that the ACU needs to be embedded into investigations at a much earlier stage than the proposed 12 months and that this could be managed through a phased approach.” It added that the ACU should have sufficient resources, including a separate intelligence unit and independent covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) capacity.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that three senior gardaí are currently supported by 23 officers, and that an additional 13 members of the force will be allocated to the unit shortly.
“There is no room in An Garda Síochána for anyone who engages in corruption and whose standards fall below what the public and I expect from Garda personnel. Our integrity as an organisation is not negotiable,” Mr Harris said.
“It is an unfortunate reality that experience has shown us that a small number of Garda personnel have abused their position of trust for their own gain. These individuals put themselves before the needs of the communities we serve and their colleagues, and in doing so damage individuals and the reputation of An Garda Síochána.”
Other recommendations contained within the report are that gardaí should undertake “periodic integrity health checks” as there are currently limited opportunities to do so.
This, the Inspectorate said, should be done if not on an annual basis, then “at the very minimum at critical career points such as on promotion or selection for specialist or designated positions”.
It also said that additional vetting recruitment checks should be introduced, including the European Criminal Records Information System, credit checks, financial intelligence, social media, and convictions by other state bodies.