Staff shortages having ‘significant impact’ on Garda response to economic and cyber crime
Specialist staff shortages are having a “significant impact” on An Garda Síochána’s ability to respond effectively to economic crime, corruption and cyber crime, a report has warned.
The Policing Authority’s first Assessment of Policing Performance in 2021 welcomes progress in implementing the Policing Plan 2021, with around two-thirds of the targets reported as being on-target at the end of June, a considerable improvement on previous years.
However, the report raises concerns about the “lack of strategic workforce planning”, which was identified as a priority issue in 2019 but has not been successfully addressed.
It states: “This has significant impacts on the organisation’s ability to respond effectively to economic crime and corruption – and to respond to cyber crime and cyber-enabled crime. These are crime types that are increasingly significant in modern society and are increasing in volume and prevalence.
“They are also areas of crime (for example online child sexual abuse) that are high risk, can result in a severe degree of harm to victims and which the public has indicated it regards as a priority area for policing.
“Practically, this impacts significantly on the ability of the Garda Síochána to efficiently and expediently investigate these and other crime types, for example delays and backlogs existing in the examination of seized mobile and computer devices.”
The report continues that this is “not simply an issue of ‘more guards’”, which “oversimplifies the challenges within modern policing, challenges that require the input of specialist skills”.
“Strategic workforce planning is about anticipating the type of skills that are needed, when and where they are needed, who has them within the organisation and how they will be developed, accessed, supported and retained,” it states.
Commenting on the publication of the report, Policing Authority chief executive Helen Hall said: “The onset of Covid-19 and the response of the Garda Síochána was agile, considered and prioritised the protection of the most vulnerable in society.
“It gave a renewed vigour to the strengths of the Garda Síochána and built on the progress and success achieved in recent years. Areas such as community engagement, victim support and protecting the vulnerable saw extremely high levels of performance during 2020. This has continued in 2021.
“However, the weaknesses that were exacerbated were also, and continue to be, evident – predominantly those relating to performance management, supervision, strategic HR management, financial management and planning, and the provision of training.
“These key enablers are the foundation of good performance and at present they are undermining the ability of the Garda Síochána to provide an efficient, and effective policing service.”