An Garda Síochána is "well behind" other comparable police services in how it allocates resources and in how it uses technology and data to manage demand and improve its service to the public, according to a new report.
The report entitled "Policing with Local Communities" also found that communities have noticed a decrease in garda visibility and not enough gardaí on duty at the right times, with fewer available in rural areas.
It says some areas have no dedicated community gardaí.
The Garda Inspectorate also found the force has an insufficient understanding of the demand for its services and is unclear how many gardaí it needs to police the State.
The inspectorate spent the last two years examining how local policing services are planned, organised and delivered how garda staff and other resources are allocated and deployed.
It says that while gardaí have a strong community ethos and do many things well they need to develop a more structured and consistent approach to policing.
The inspectorate found gardaí do not fully understand the demand for their services and are unclear of the right mix of gardaí and reserves should be to police the State.
The gardaí are "well behind" other police services in how they use technology and data to allocate resources and measure and meet demand.
There are often not enough gardaí on duty at the right times and fewer available each day in rural areas.
The slow progress of civilianisation, the decline in reserves and the removal of gardaí from frontline roles has hindered the opportunity to put as many gardaí back on the streets.
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Communities have noticed a decrease in garda visibility and in many areas community gardaí have dropped by up to 50% with large reductions in rural areas. Some have no dedicated community gardaí.
Victims of crime and local communities are also affected by gardaí being taken away for other duties such as prisoner escorts.
The current "one size fits all" garda roster is not making the best use of gardaí and there are organisational risks with custody management, response driving, the deployment of district detectives to firearms incidents and frontline supervision – particularly given the inexperience of a large number of frontline gardaí.
The report contains nine critical actions to improve local policing services.
It says policing should be managed within a division without the barrier of district boundaries.
Resources should be assigned to garda units based on their policing needs and a strategy should be developed to enhance visibility and accessibility.
Garda clinics, kiosks and shop fronts as well as enhanced online services should be used in policing.
The ICT strategy should prioritise the provision of mobile technology to local policing units to transform the capability of front line gardaí and a critical mass of garda staff should be recruited to release gardaí from non operational posts.
Patrol sergeants and inspectors should be on duty in all divisions on a 24/7 basis, multiple rosters should be developed to put resources where and when they are needed and the garda should review its firearms requirements.
Today’s report was commissioned by the former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald in 2016 before the establishment of the Commission on the Future of Policing.
Ironically not only was the commission’s report published before today’s inspectorate report but the commission also recommended the abolition of the inspectorate by merging it with the Policing Authority to form a new body.
The current Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, said today’s report will be referred to the Implementation Group for Policing Reform so that it can be taken into account in their work.