The need for the Minister for Justice Defence and Equality to make a statement on his plans for the future of the Garda Reserve

01/28/2014
Question Posed To: 
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter TD

As the Senator will be aware, the Garda Reserve was established to enhance the links between the Garda Síochána and local communities through the deployment of locally recruited volunteers who operate in support of full-time colleagues.  There are currently 1,164 attested Reserve Gardaí with a further 99 at various stages of training.  Garda Reserve members make a real and tangible contribution to the policing right across the country and the Minister and Government are fully supportive of its continued development.  In this regard, recruitment to the Reserve and training of new Reserve members is ongoing.

Under section 15 (5) of the Garda Síochána Act, the range of powers and duties of a member of the Garda Reserve is a matter for the Garda Commissioner to determine. The Garda Commissioner initially determined that the duties of a Garda reserve member shall include the following:-

·        Station duty, other than the care and custody of prisoners.
·        Assistant to the station orderly.
·        Communications room duty, to include monitoring CCTV.
·        Foot patrol, accompanied by a member of the full-time Garda service.
·        Static security duty.
·        Road Traffic checkpoint duties, accompanied by a full time member.
·        Duty at the outer cordon of major events such as festivals and major sporting events.
·        Assisting in the event of accidents, fires and major emergencies.
·        Giving evidence in court.          
·        Community / Neighbourhood Policing.

During 2012 the Garda Commissioner carried out an internal review of the Reserve and has since decided to extend their powers and functions of Garda Reserve Members to such areas as domestic violence, child protection, conflict resolution, Garda policy on bullying and harassment, out of vehicle safety training (OVST), first aid and ample probe training. Continuous Professional Development courses are also to be provided annually to Garda Reserves on a Divisional basis.  Training in these new areas commenced in 2012, and almost all of the Reserve members have now been trained in the new powers.  The following provisions were also introduced:

·        The provision of a Mentor/Tutor Garda for the Garda Reserve.
·        Formal appraisal system.
·        All Garda Reserves to be issued with TETRA radios when going on duty.
·        Powers under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts 1994 to 2011, and Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 as amended, in relation to the seizure of vehicles.
·        Garda Reserves will issue Fixed Charged Penalty Notices and serve summonses.
·        The Garda Reserves’ role and various functions will be communicated to full-time members through mediums such as promotion courses, the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme and the Garda Portal.
·        Exit interviews will be conducted.

It is not intended to further extend the powers of Garda Reserves at this time.   It must be borne in mind that the Reserves are a part-time element of the force and while a great asset to the Gardaí, cannot be expected to perform the same roles as fully trained members.

As regards the specific role the Senator raises, in this context I would like to point out that community policing is the underpinning philosophy and ethos through which all members of the Garda Síochána, including Garda Reserve members, deliver policing services across the country and a key area of this policy is in crime prevention. The Garda Síochána National Model of Community Policing requires each District Officer to establish a Community Policing Team in their District within the context of available resources.  Garda Reserves are involved at the heart of the community through the role they play every time they attend for duty. Notwithstanding this, it is not expected that Garda Reserve members will be assigned specifically to Community Policing roles.

In conclusion, I can, on behalf of the Minister, assure the Senator that the Government is and will continue to be, fully committed to the Garda Reserve and indeed recruitment is ongoing to further strengthen and reinforce the Reserve.