Police and thieves

 Posted by on March 21, 2006  Add comments
Mar 212006
 

I see that the membership of an Garda Siochana are upset at the prospect of our having a police reserve. They don’t think it’s a good thing to have amateurs carrying out a policing role, and, instead, they want more trained Guards on the streets to fight crime.

All well and good, but here’s a curious paradox for you: even though this is true, the Gardai are still talking bullshit. To understand why, you have to analyse carefully the words in the first paragraph, because certain unwarranted assumptions are being made there. Dangerous assumptions, based on complacency and mental laziness, not to mention dishonesty.

Firstly, as far as using amateurs in a policing role goes, where’s the evidence that we have anything but rank amateurs at the moment? This is a force which is capable of setting the most astonishing priorities for the use of its supposedly limited resources. Such as? Well, for instance such as sending four or five police to break into a house at dawn and arrest a woman for non-payment of a parking fine! If you don’t believe me, scan recent news reports about this case. Not only did they drag the woman from her bed, handcuff her and force her into a police car, they then crashed the car and injured their prisoner, who was duly awarded damages by a court of law. What??

But, you’ll say, that’s only one isolated case. Is it? Well, what about the genius strategic planner who decided it was a good idea to raid an alcohol-free teenage disco because it was being held in a hotel bar, even though the bar counter was locked? Or the hero who went camping in the Aran Islands, had a few drinks and later returned to his tent, got into his uniform and promptly raided the pub for serving after hours.

And while we’re on the subject of formidable Garda intellects, could somebody throw light for me on the planning for the Love Ulster march? Anybody?

Hello Mr Guard. Grand stretch in the evening, thanks be to God. Grand stretch right enough.

Oh, hello, Mr March-Organiser. I see the nights are closing in a bit.That’s right. We won’t feel it now till Christmas. No. Look, we were thinkin’ of havin’ a wee bit of a march there, right enough. Wee march.

Were ya now? Gob, there’s great dryin’ out today all the same.

Aye. We were thinkin’ of maybe marchin’ a couple of loyalist bands down O’Connell Street there to the GPO, comin’ up till Easter time, maybe the day of a big Celtic match. And that there.

Right. Right. A kind of march, as such.

Aye. Past that there huge pile of loose bricks. Do you see any problem with that there? Loose pile of bricks and all? Marchin’ bands? Flutes? Sash? Celtic? And that there. Right enough?

Oh God no. There’ll be no problem with that. Not at all. That’ll be grand. Seeya on the day, so. Grand. Fine. Isn’t there a grand stretch in the evening, thank God, all the same?

Yes indeed. All isolated cases.

I’m beginning to feel weary.

I was in a quiet pub not too long ago, just on closing time on a Tuesday night, when two Guards walked in, ordered everybody out and waited in the street until the place was empty. That was their priority at 11:30 on a Tuesday night in Limerick. To clear six or seven people from a pub where there has never been the slightest trouble. And furthermore to wait in the street until all the desperate miscreants had vacated the establishment. Now, this might seem like a trivial matter, and that’s exactly what it is. A small, ridiculous incident. However, I think it illustrates perfectly the hollowness of all this talk about Garda resources. Trained, highly-paid police are using their time in such petty pursuits. It points towards a total absence of any sense of perspective, an inability to manage resources in any meaningful sense, an inability to prioritise and an almost complete lack of management in any modern sense. Another isolated case.

I’m sure everybody has their own isolated cases they could tell you about, and ultimately every example is an isolated case, but so is every arbitrary arrest, every unfounded prosecution and every instance of perjury.

Perjury? Jesus Christ, now he’s calling the Guards liars!

OK. Don’t listen to me, then. Instead have a look at these quotes:

  • the spirit wearies at the lies, obfuscations, concealments and conspiracies to destroy the truth that would be apparent to any reasonable person
  • This entire matter could have been ended within months had there not been a determined effort to conceal the truth in favour of a twisted version of reality
  • This process of investigation has been delayed by contempt for the truth.
  • Some Garda witnesses told lies or simply refused to answer on the basis of a warped interpretation of the right to silence.
  • When an obligation to answer was in place, lies replaced silence. The extent of this was both astonishing and wearisome. It has wasted time and money in abundance.

Who do you think wrote these things? Was it some rabid kaftan-weaving peace-marching Ego Worrier, such as my good self? No. It was not. The author of these remarks was, in fact, Mr Justice Frederick Morris, President of the High Court, and he expressed these views in May 2005, in his report on the Donegal Garda division. Less than a year ago.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we need a strong professional police force. I just don’t think we have one. Instead of a police force, it seems to me that we have a clan, a tribe, which regards the rest of society with suspicion and approaches people sometimes with undisguised aggression. Who hasn’t been on the receiving end of boorish, disrespectful behaviour by some Guard on a power trip? Annoying though such an experience can be, I’m afraid this has a more worrying consequence. Any force such as our own must police by consent, and unfortunately it seems that many members of the force are busily eroding the support of the very law-abiding people they need on their side.

It seems to me that the root of this problem lies in the culture of the training regime. Many guards in a quieter moment will tell you that they learned in Templemore to see everybody as a potential criminal. Often overlooked and, to my mind, very revealing is the terminology used by our police force in referring to individual officers. Do you know of another country where police refer to each other as “members”?

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