Author: Sinéad Taaffe and Aoife Stack
October 26, 2018
Annual Report recommends substantial changes to the structures and processes for handling complaints regarding police conduct.
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland has recently published its report entitled “the Future of Policing in Ireland”.
The report outlines a new framework for policing, security and community safety and the changes required to implement this framework.
The report makes a number of recommendations concerning the structures and processes for handling complaints. These include:
- That the system for managing complaints should be overhauled and an independent body, superseding GSOC, should be established to receive all complaints about the police service, from whatever source. It is suggested that this body would be known as the Independent Office of the Police Ombudsman (IOPO).
- If the IOPO judges a complaint to be a performance management matter, it should refer it to the police service for resolution. Any complaint which goes beyond a performance management issue and which involves alleged breaches of human rights or accepted standards of policing, should be investigated by the IOPO itself, without recourse to Garda investigators.
- The IOPO should be tasked with investigating incidents as opposed to individuals, so as to find fault where appropriate, identify what needs to be learned, and make recommendations for change as required.
- The IOPO’s remit should be expanded to include complaints relating to incidents involving non-sworn personnel of An Garda Síochána, as well as sworn police.
- All complaints, including performance matters dealt with by the police service, must be properly documented and the data accessible to the IOPO. All complaints should be handled swiftly and transparently so that the complainant can easily track progress and those who are the subject of a complaint are properly informed. The police service should distinguish between matters of discipline and those requiring guidance rather than punishment. The report also suggests that the Disciplinary Regulations should be reviewed and reformed.
- The IOPO should make recommendations for changes to policy or practice based on lessons learned from complaints. Such recommendations should be passed to An Garda Síochána for action, and copied to the PCSOC (the Policing and Community Safety Oversight Commission) for information.
- The remit of the IOPO would not include the power to conduct inspections of the police organisation. It is envisaged that the PCSOC will be the sole owner of this inspection function.
- The establishment of the IOPO will require changes to current legislation. New legislation should examine the expansion of the current scope of the judicial inquiry process contained in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to include an inquiry in to the processes and procedures of the IOPO.
- New legislation should empower the Commissioner, in the public interest, to bring matters to the attention of the IOPO which in his or her opinion warrant investigations. Such matters would include, for instance, allegations of past police wrongdoing.
It is envisaged that the proposed reforms outlined in the report will be effective by 2022.
A link to the full report is here.