Garda Commissioner Drew Harris first announced plans for new new Garda Operating Model last August, citing the need to change An Garda Siochana’s structure to respond to changing communities, changing crime trends and a changing workforce.
The new model was launched last year with the support of Government, the Policing Authority and Garda Inspectorate and implementation began soon after, but this was – and still is – being conducted in phases. The restructuring is being done at national, regional and local levels.
Commissioner Harris says this will lead to larger divisions, enhanced national and regional support, more frontline Gardai and improved performance, which in turn will bring increased consistency of high-quality policing services and deliver a more localised service to communities.
Implementation is taking place on a phased basis. Five An Garda Siochana regions have already seen restructuring changes, as the divisions are reduced from 28 to 19. The five divisions to form Phase One of the restructuring were Galway, Meath/Westmeath, Dublin South Central, Limerick and Cork City with Meath and Westmeath’s previously separate divisions merged.
The Gardai hope the learnings from these divisions will inform subsequent phases, including other mergers. As part of the new Operating Model, the Louth Division is being merged with the existing division of Cavan/Monaghan.
The timeline for implementing the new Operating Model in the Louth/Cavan/Monaghan division has not yet been determined but it is understood it may be in operation by the end of 2020. Commissioner Harris told the combined Joint Policing Committee meeting last Friday that it is to be part of the final implementation phase to ‘allow for maximum learnings from prior phases and to allow for further clarity on Brexit and other border specific situations’.
The new model will see the number of Superintendents across the combined divisions reduced. Currently, there are eight superintendents stationed in Louth (three) and Cavan/Monaghan (five). The merger will see that number reduced to five.
However, as Harris was at pains to state on Friday, the new Operating Model will see the introduction of additional Inspectors, Sergeants and officers allocated to the division. Each division will have an on-duty Inspector at all times – ensuring a 24/7 presence to provide enhanced supervision and direction.
Currently, Louth has three Superintendents – Supt Gerry Curley in Dundalk, Supt Andrew Watters in Dundalk and Supt James O’Leary in Ardee.
Under the new Operating Model, the new merged division will have five superintendents – a Divisional Crime Superintendent, with a responsibility for crime investigations, a Superintendent with a responsibility for governance and three Superintendents who will lead dedicated, geographically dispered Community Engagement areas.
The latter is part of An Garda Siochana’s increaed focus on community policing and engagement with the public.
The Divisional headquarters for the new Louth/Cavan/Monaghan division will be located at Drogheda Garda Station. However, Harris told the meeting that this does not mean senior personnel such as Superintendents would all be centralised at the Divisional HQ. Instead, he insisted that Superintendents, Inspectors, Sergeants and their teams would be geographically dispersed throughout the division.
Harris confirmed that the decision of where Superintendents would be stationed would rest with the Chief Superintendent.
Among the rationale offered for why Drogheda was chosen as the new Divisional headquarters, was the town’s large population and the ‘highest activity levels’ within the three counties.
According to Harris, the merger will see approximately 700 Garda personnel stationed within the three counties after the restructuring comes into force.
The new Operating Model will see 22 Gardai reassigned to the frontline from various administrative positions within the Louth Division, according to Harris’ presentation.
However, some questions remain about the decision not to include East Meath as part of any new Louth Garda Division with a number of questions posed to the Commissioner last week in regards to how some areas of Drogheda – mere kilometres from Drogheda Garda Station – were being served by Gardai from Ashbourne.
Sinn Féin TD Ruairi O Murchu spoke critically of any decision to take away Louth’s standalone divisional status while the Drogheda City Status group have previously called for a joint Louth/Meath Garda Division.