As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
Community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána as it recognises that every community, either urban or rural, has its own concerns and expectations. The role of a community Garda is not a specialist role in An Garda Síochána; rather it is the case that all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in carrying out their duties. The official categorisation of Community Garda simply refers to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others. It is a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her having regard to the profile of the area and its specific needs.
I have been informed by the Commissioner that a new “Community Policing Framework” is currently at an advanced stage. I understand that under this new Framework which will take into account the recommendations of the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, it is envisaged that Community policing may be a specialism in some urban areas. In rural areas, it may be more of a hybrid model where all Gardaí in a District have a community responsibility but also having to attend normal policing duties.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. This accelerated recruitment of Gardaí saw Garda numbers reach just over 14,000 by the end of 2018. Furthermore, a total budget of €1.76 billion has been provided to An Garda Síochána in 2019, an increase of over €100 million on the 2018 allocation. This substantial investment will provide new and leading edge technology to support our front line Gardaí in carrying out their work and increasing visibility in both rural and urban communities
The Garda Commissioner has informed me that it is his intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 along with a net 600 Garda Staff (civilians). The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy this year a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to the frontline duties for which they are trained. I believe that the injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities. This and on-going recruitment will clearly provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across the organisation, including Community Policing in the coming years.
The information in relation to the number of Community Gardaí by Division in each of the years 2008 as to 30 December 2018, the latest date for which figures are available, is available on my Department’s website through the following link.
For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the following link: