103. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which policing methods here, and in particular in counties Sligo and Leitrim, are aligned to best practice in other jurisdictions, with particular reference to comparison with those jurisdictions deemed to have the most effective policing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16923/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Garda Síochána Act 2005 contains provisions, the purpose of which are to assist the Garda Síochána to operate to the best standards in line with the police services of other comparable jurisdictions.
The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provided for the establishment of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Section 117(1) of the Act requires the Garda Síochána Inspectorate to benchmark their recommendations by reference to the best standards of comparable police services. Arising from this requirement, every inspection conducted by the Garda Inspectorate, and any recommendation arising, has involved examining and taking account of policing practices in other jurisdictions.
The Garda Professional Standards Unit, which was established under Section 24 of the 2005 Act, undertakes reviews, as directed by the Garda Commissioner, into operational, administrative and management matters relating to the Garda Síochána at all levels. Arising from these reviews, the Unit proposes measures to improve performance and promote the highest standards of practice throughout the Garda Síochána with reference to those of comparable police services. The Garda Commissioner, on an ongoing basis, draws on the Unit's proposals to enhance policing practices and policies.
The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner published her Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 in June 2016. This Programme includes recommendations from the various Garda Inspectorate Reports including the most recent Inspectorate Reports - 'Crime Investigation' and 'Changing Policing in Ireland'.
Key reforms being implemented include the replacement of the current District model of policing with a Divisional model where responsibilities will be allocated on a functional rather than geographical basis. This will be subject to modifications to ensure the close relationship with communities is maintained in large rural Divisions. In line with international norms, a medium term target of 20% civilians to be achieved by 2021 has been set.
The implementation of the Modernisation and Renewal Programme is primarily a matter for the Commissioner. However, the Government decided that the Policing Authority should be requested, in accordance with section 117(A) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended), to monitor the implementation of the agreed recommendations in 'Changing Policing in Ireland' and to report to me at regular intervals. I have received the first such progress report from the Policing Authority. Their next progress report is due by the end of April.
In July, the Government approved a Five Year Reform and High Level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána. This Plan marries the agreed recommendations in 'Changing Policing in Ireland' with a major investment programme that will increase the number of gardaí to 15,000; double the number of civilians to 4,000; and more than double the number of reserves members to 2,000. This investment in human capital is supported by a €300 million capital plan that will deliver leading-edge technology and other capital infrastructure to the Garda Síochána. The 2017 Estimates reflect this commitment by providing the resources to recruit 800 gardaí, 500 civilians and 300 reserves in 2017.
Separately, I am advised that the Garda Inspectorate and the Garda Síochána are working towards the production, in tabular form, of a current implementation status report of the recommendations contained in a number of Garda Inspectorate Reports and this report will be published on the Inspectorate's website when it is completed.
The Deputy will be aware that at yesterday's Government meeting I received approval to begin the process of establishing a Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. I expect that the Commission will have regard to best policing practice internationally.