Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Questions (605)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

605. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice if consideration will be given to utilising the 430 members of the Garda Reserve to assist gardaí during the implementation of changing Covid-19 restriction levels and beyond; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40224/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána as well as the allocation and distribution of resources. This includes responsibility for the recruitment, training and deployment of Garda members and members of the Garda Reserve. As Minister, I have no responsibility in these matters. I am assured however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review, in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

I am informed that there are currently 416 Garda Reserves.

The duties and powers of the Garda Reserve are determined by the Garda Commissioner as set out in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. The Garda Commissioner has determined the duties of a Garda Reserve member shall be the following;

Community Policing

Patrols, either on beat patrol or mobile patrol in the Community/ Neighbourhood Policing Area

Road traffic checkpoint duties

Duty at the outer cordon of major events such as festivals and major sporting events.

Issue Fixed Charge Penalty Notices (FCPN) where required

Assisting in the event of accidents, fires and major emergencies

Preserving crime scenes – static security duty

Station duties

Station duty, other than the care and custody of prisoners

Station orderly

Communications Room duty, to include monitoring CCTV

Courts

Serving summonses

Giving evidence in court

While undertaking the above duties a Reserve Garda must be accompanied by a full-time member of An Garda Síochána at the rank of Garda or above.

Reserve Gardaí are regarded as essential workers and so can operate as they normally would at any other time and are not prevented from undertaking duty during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The most recent figures for the first 6 months of 2020, show that across the organisation almost 13,000 hours were volunteered by 132 individual Reserve Gardaí supporting their fulltime colleagues.

I informed by the Garda authorities that each Garda division was requested to review how Reserve Gardaí were to be utilised during the initial COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year and further communication has issued to them again during the Level 5 restrictions, highlighting duties and roles that can be undertaken by Reserve Gardaí. This includes;

Hi-Visibility foot or mobile patrols

Detailed to assist Community Policing units – Particular attention is drawn to the benefit of an additional uniform member being available to assist the elderly or vulnerable members of the community

Road traffic check point duties – including those in support of Operation Fanacht

Assist Gardaí in inspecting licensed premises in support of Operation Navigation

Station duty – Front counter, Station orderly or Communications room

Reserve Gardaí cannot be directed to attend for duty, but if they volunteer for duty and advise their local management of their availability they can be rostered on for duty by mutual agreement and carry out duties as outlined above. Additionally, Divisional Officers must ensure the health and safety of all personnel when devising policing plans for their divisions. As such, the exact utilisation of Reserve Gardaí will vary across divisions.

When on duty, Reserve Gardaí have access to the same PPE equipment with respect to COVID-19 precautions, gloves/facemasks/sanitiser/etc., as their full time colleagues. In addition, it is noted that An Garda Síochána is encouraging all its members and staff to receive the annual Flu Vaccine this year and is supporting this by refunding the cost of the vaccine, up to a maximum of €40. This measure has been communicated to the entire organisation and is also available to Reserve Gardaí, who are making themselves available for duty, and this has been explicitly communicated to every division to ensure Reserve Gardaí are made aware of this.