Erris Gardai Recording –The Limits on Conversation at Work

This business with the Guards in Mayo joking about rape raises interesting questions.

I’m not going to defend three fools in a squad car, but I would like to examine the limits of acceptable conversation a little.  Like everyone else, I’ve seen Gardai abuse their positions to arrest law-abiding members of the public, solely because they felt like having a little power trip and I think the Gardai in Erris have been violent and heavy-handed in the way they treat people trying to express a legitimate objection to the Shell project.

In the current case, it appears that they arrested a woman who was simply standing in a public place, filming.  While there are some restrictions on broadcasting a film, there is nothing illegal about filming on a public road, and therefore there’s a nice irony in the fact that their arrogance in falsely arresting the woman was what led to their conversation being heard all over the world.

However, none of that is relevant, so let’s leave it aside for a minute and look at the limitations that apply to private conversations held by police, or anyone else for that matter, without presuming anything about the particular circumstances. Is there such a thing as a private conversation when people are at work?  I think that’s the kernel of it.

Some people have said that policemen on duty shouldn’t joke at all, because they’re being paid to work.  Well and good, but how far does that go?  When two or three cops are together in a car, must their conversation be strictly work at all times?  Are they allowed to talk about the weather?  How about the football?  Is someone permitted to pass an occasional light-hearted comment, or are they required to be Judge Dredd?  No laughing, no interaction.

That would scare me. It’s bad enough to be stopped by policemen who are complete unprofessional idiots, but if, on top of that, they turn out to be humourless, unthinking automatons, I’m in real trouble.

However, let’s assume that most reasonable people understand how human relations work and see no problem with colleagues chatting as they drive along, talking about family, sport, politics and telling a few jokes, the way normal people do.

What can they laugh about?

Could they ask each other riddles?

Tell knock-knock jokes?

One theory of humour is that it involves the resolution of incongruities.  In other words, when you take something utterly absurd and paste it into the familiar world, people laugh.  You end up with things like Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a movie which was banned in Ireland when first released because some people jumped to the wrong conclusions about it.

Going back to our three cops in the car, if they had been recorded acting out a conversation where one of them says to a member of the public, Tell me your name and address or I’ll crucify you, that would be a very serious thing to threaten, but I don’t think there would be the same outcry.

Why?  Because nobody believes that would ever happen, and even the recipient of the threat wouldn’t take it seriously.  Yet, there are places where a policeman might do precisely that to a person he’s just arrested.

It’s all about context.

Supposing they all laughed when one of them said Tell me your name and address or I’ll shoot you.

Surely murder is even more serious than rape, but if gardai were recorded talking like that, I just don’t think anyone would give it a second thought, because they’d know perfectly well the cops were plainly acting out an absurd and highly-unlikely scenario.  In a society like ours, slipshod though the police can often be, these things simply do not happen.  The police don’t murder people, they don’t rape them, and they never will unless there’s a total breakdown in society.

So here’s what I’m curious about.  Would there be demands for dismissal if they had been recorded saying Tell me your name and address or I’ll kill you?

And if not, why not?



45 replies on “Erris Gardai Recording –The Limits on Conversation at Work”

These cops should be dismissed. They are not only incompetent, they are also a security risk. In their act of saying these really stupid things, they are demonstrating that they are not trustworthy and likely to have a number of psychological problems.

Two valuable words have been used by you here Bock, Automatons and Context. Two very succinct points that are in my opinion the crux of the whole sensible discussion. Some of the worlds Polis may well be a bit on the oul ‘tick’ side at times, but so are butchers, bakers, and if the art still exists, probably candlestick makers as well.

Your man Kropotnikus here probably wants the blackbirds shot out of the skies for stealing the blackberries fae his garden. I say stupid things at times, but that doesn’t mean that I have psychological problems as a direct result. Now, gonnae hold this body still for me while I hack off the head with my garden hoe?

One issue in this case is that these women were under arrest at the time and therefore in the custody of these officers, a duty of care lies with them to treat them with a modicum of respect. My belief is that they were abusing their position to threaten and intimidate these women.
gardai are as human as the rest of us, but this was not a conversation that could be in any way looked on as funny.
Let’s inject a hypothetical situation into this, if you fell out of Burkes with a skinful in you and in a funny mood and said jokingly to a ban garda, “i’d love to rape you” , what do you think the outcome would be, for certain you would not be waking up in your own bed the next day. Respect is a two way street.
Rape is one of the greatest indignities that can be inflicted on a person and is used frequently by police forces around the world in their arsenal of intimidation and torture, for the police to use the threat of it when holding people in custody is an attack on their most fundamental of human rights.
And for men who have seen first hand what rape does to the victim it is reprehensible, I believe it may have been premeditated in order to terrorise these women.
Not only is there the issue of what was said, but also there may be legal ramifications for wrongful arrest and detention, as quiet rightly you have said bock it is not illegal to film in a public place.
One issue I have to raise is, when you say the police don’t rape you, are you saying the gardai or any police force?

Employee’s should understand that almost every thing they do or say on the job is the property of their employer. People are always shocked to find that their employer can read their e-mail, that it is not private. Companies can and do read employees e-mail especially if they want to get rid of them.
The same principal applies to the Guards ?

I think there may be some misunderstanding (deliberate or otherwise) the women were in another car when the remarks were made and they were never meant to hear them.

Gary, First the thought then the action! If I had to adjudicate on this issue I would err on the side caution and dismiss these men.

on the context issue, I think that there is a big difference between “tell me your name or I’ll crucify you”, and “tell me your name or I’ll rape you”.

The first is absurd, and therefore not an issue.

The second, though, is terrifying because the girls find it easier to believe – remember, something like “she’s not safe with that man!” was shouted out at one point.

It’s like holding a knife to someone’s stomach in an alley and saying “I’m gonna stick this in you”. That person doesn’t know you, and doesn’t know whether you might do it or not. That’s much more terrifying than someone holding a button and saying “I’m gonna blow us both up”. The first is more terrifying despite it being less dangerous.

Gearohid I find that attitude another example of “Political correctness” gone mad. To dismiss a group of young men for cracking a joke , no matter how distasteful, would in my opinion be excessive. I do not expect people who put on a Garda uniform to sprout wings and a halo. I have on occasion been in all male company ( married with children ) where someone will start cracking sexist jokes. I do not laugh but on the other hand I do not demand they leave. I think there are worse things going on at the Shell site, one big problem being Garda have been left on riot control for ten years and I feel as a result must have become brutalised.

Nollaig — The women were not in the custody of those gardai. Also, I was careful to point out that I was referring to Irish police.

Kae — I put this question at the end of the post. Would there be demands for dismissal if they had been recorded saying Tell me your name and address or I’ll kill you? That’s not particularly absurd.

KV had these remarks been made to the women you might have a point. However the women were not present when the remarks were made and they were never meant to hear them.

ok Bock, thank you for that,
Gary, there is a huge difference in saying jaysus she has a great arse, or i’d flake that in a heartbeat and saying you are going to rape some one.
I think that if this is the mindset of these individauls then there is no place for them in the Garda force and should be dismissed.

I’m sure there have been cases of murder, just as I’m sure individual policemen over the years have committed rape. That’s not the point of the question, and I think you know it.

Well then on conversation at work…the policemen who were recorded in England making a few racist comments got short shift out the door.So sorry but no people in certain jobs have to control themselves and act in a responsible manner.What if doctors were caught on tape talking about raping a sedated patient or teachers talking about raping a schoolchild.As a matter of fact the only people I have ever heard “joking” about things like rape have been weirdos.In my experience such joking is not a part of the conversation amongst normal guys.

I completely agree with William here, to joke about such a serious crime shows a lack of compassion for victims, and goes beyond the realm of normal humour. Sure I have heard similar statements and have participated too, but now I see the error in my ways and I will change and try to change my colleagues too.

Gardai are in a position of authority and are responsible for the protection of the weak and vulnerable in society. If they think it is funny to joke about carrying out those crimes, then it demonstrates a cultural problem within the force itself. Surely the best possible people should be members of our Police Force?

“The employment behaviours or standards expected for a store clerk or a salesperson are less rigorous and demanding than the societal expectations of police officers (Barker, 2002 as cited in Kruger, Lersch & Mieczkowski, 2002). This principle – of a higher standard of conduct and expectations – is expected of a public servant.” — ‘Drug Testing the Police’

It would certainly be outrageous if they had joked about raping their prisoners, but they didn’t do that.

Now, does anyone have a view on the question asked?

No there would have been no demands for dismissal for saying

Tell me your name and address or I’ll kill you?

They simply didn’t say that though, while I don’t think they should be dismissed for what they said, I think the complete over reaction can be explained, because the word “rape”, like the word “cunt” has been hijacked as one of those watershed words by certain people, (most of them female) as words to beat people up about (normally males, when it’s convenient)

The breadknife actually likes the word cunt, so it always seems strange to me that people get all squirrely when it’s used in the wrong context. It’s not a word I’m comfortable with, as some people (mostly women) are not comfortable with.

I used to work with a restaurant manager (female) who used to use the word rape in the context of the restaurant being really busy “we got raped tonight” which I was fairly comfortable with.

I have been known to say “sweating like a rapist” or “sweating like John Leslie” and have never been in trouble with the police, or had any woman feel uncomfortable in my presence (as far as a I’m aware.)

I have never said that to a woman, only in all male company…. in the back of a squad car obviously……… while working….. and getting paid excessive overtime.

Put in the context of the question you ask, it has been blown out of all proportion, and it must have been a very slow news week. What about the waste of money

I don’t think these guys should be dismissed from the force. It was obviously a brain-fart on their parts. Desk-duty is a good enough punishment.

Would there be demands for dismissal if they’d been recorded threatening murder? I certainly would hope so, if it sounded in the least bit serious. Otherwise, again, desk-duty should be the least punishment they get.

I would hate to think that any time I need police help that they start joking about killing, mutilating, or raping when I turn my back. It’s disturbing, to say the least.

But, to suggest they be fired? No – that’s too far. As long as they do their job, they should be left to do their job. I wouldn’t want them in contact with the public, though.

surely these guards were talking about the guards in the other car with the 2 women? my first thought on hearing the recording was that they knew something about one of the other guards. just a thought.

My difficulty with it is that I don’t think they were caught making any threats.

But if you substitute the word “kill” for the word “rape”, would there have been the same outcry, given that killing is an even more grave crime than rape?

The thing is, Gardai in Ireland DO treat people really badly in custody.

When Terence Wheelock’s clothing was examined, after he had been so severely injured while in custody he never regained consciousness, there were bloodstains on the INSIDE of his tracksuit bottoms.

If you think nobody has ever been raped in Garda custody then well and good, but I would not be so sure.

Ok here’s my view on the question:

“So here’s what I’m curious about. Would there be demands for dismissal if they had been recorded saying Tell me your name and address or I’ll kill you?

And if not, why not?”

If they had made that particular joke, there may not be demands for their dismissal due to the unlikely probability of them actually killing anyone and no one taking it seriously. Even if it’s clear that they are joking about rape, I guess it’s a possibility that it’s something they could have done. Not that a Guard killing anyone in custody is out of the realms of possibility, but it’s not likely. Either is the rape of any woman in custody likely in my opinion, but it’s not so absurd that you’d think it’d never happen.

“While there are some restrictions on broadcasting a film, there is nothing illegal about filming on a public road, and therefore there’s a nice irony in the fact that their arrogance in falsely arresting the woman was what led to their conversation being heard all over the world.” Irony, or karma even!

I wonder what it was like for the woman when she got her camera back, listening to them? Could you sit on that bombshell? It’ll probably ruin their careers. They have families to feed I’m sure.
Tough decisions to be made sometimes. Or not maybe. Maybe she was treated so badly there was no contemplation put into releasing it. I’d find it tough myself.

Here’s a question. Why did the Gardai not know that you can’t arrest somebody just because they’re filming?

I wonder what Act was invoked to justify the arrest? Perhaps it was the all-purpose Public Order Act used by Gardai the length of the country to intimidate harmless members of the public?

“Why did the Gardai not know that you can’t arrest somebody just because they’re filming?” Well they know now and they won’t forget it in a hurry.

It’s arrogance, as you say Bock. It comes back to bite ya in the backside sometimes.

I get the feeling they’ve been a bit humbled from this experience somehow and it shouldn’t just be these Guards who were caught that should be taking all the flak, the whole lot of them up there should be ashamed of themselves.

I agree. As you know, I’ve been arguing for years that the Gardai need to be reformed, and purged of the incompetent, unprofessional mindset that afflicts the organisation, but I don’t think that reform should be at the expense of the gobshites caught on tape. They didn’t threaten anyone. You could hear any comedian saying exactly the same thing, from Chris Rock to George Carlin, and we’d laugh at the absurdity of it.

It’s very important not to misrepresent what they said, because ultimately that will cause a backlash. It will benefit the Shell spin machine and also impede any serious restructuring of the Guards.

So here’s what I’m curious about. Would there be demands for dismissal if they had been recorded saying Tell me your name and address or I’ll kill you?
And if not, why not?

Of course not because it would have been taken in jest.
People really get up on their high horses over this, I’ve made jokes about all kinds of gross things.
From the comments, some people here have never told a joke that could possibly offend anyone.
They probably have amazing senses of humour though. hmm.

“Down with this sort of thing” from Father Ted springs to mind.

It amuses me how many people believe these officers should be giving the boot, I listened to the entire video and from what I gather the woman they had arrested had to be removed from on top of a tractor, they didn’t have ladders for so probably had to pull her down (of course forcefully in the mind of the protestor), they came across in the video to be heartily concerned for the welfare of those involved and knew how they removed her was not within protocol as they didn’t have the equipment to do so correctly, that said I don’t believe they should have left her on top of the tractor when its obstructed work and was a safety risk.

The woman shouting “she’s not safe with that man!” hardly implies that the officer on duty was going to actually rape her, this is a ludicrous statement to make from professional protesters looking for anything to hang guards on. Now the guards knew this and the joke they made, albeit in poor taste, clearly was in reference to this fact, and why they considered it a joke. “Give me your name and address and I’ll rape you” stems from just that, throwing in the other comment about “Can I add you to facebook?” adds light to the situation. It was a off the cuff joke insight of what they had just dealt with. If it had been said one day later or three weeks later, I would be more concerned but not in this case. It’s a form of stress release to make such a joke about some incident that was just inferring that said officer would actually rape a detained woman in their care, and they knew no such thing would ever take place.

Also I should add that the officer in question had been previously commended for his work on rape cases and his approach to such matters. He knew above all how silly such a comment she made against him was and throw out that joke to colleagues who knew him and his work how far from the truth it was, making the joke more relatative and amusing.
This has been blown totally out of the water by Shell to Sea and the press and tarnishing these officers name and seeking dismissal is way too excessive in my view, but that’s me. I can see where the joke stems from and find nothing serious or threatening about it. There are far more serious matters the nation should be concerned with these days than some brain fart joke from someone secretly recorded in a private (moving car) location. Sad that this country can be so easily taking up and enraged about it and yet bankers and politicans can continue to screw us and no one seeks accountability or sacking. We are truly screwed as a nation.

many crimes begin as a joke then someone adds..why not! What is really sad is that there are people who think comments like this are ok for a police force to make.Maybe its this tolerance of low or no standards in Irish life is the real reason “We are truly screwed as a nation”.On the subject of limits of conversation at work….here is an example get a job in an airport and start making bomb jokes.Then you will learn that yes there most certainly are limits on conversation at work.

To answer your question Bock I think there would be calls for their dismissal if they said that.. Imagine the consequences if you made a similar threat to a guard. It would be taken very seriously,so why shouldnt it be the same if the reverse were the case?

“On the subject of limits of conversation at work….here is an example get a job in an airport and start making bomb jokes.Then you will learn that yes there most certainly are limits on conversation at work.”

Exactly, you probably would make bomb jokes, but you’d be damn sure you didn’t get caught doing so.

I expect Gardai will be much more careful about confiscating recording equipment now…

Obviously there are no nurses, paramedics or firemen reading this. Or if there are, they can’t be bothered commenting, and I understand why. They know all about black humour, and if the PC brigade had recordings of their conversations, they’d all be fired.

are you sure the guards were joking….it did not begin with…Did you hear the one about etc etc.From what I heard it sounded like the were fantasising about raping their prisoners.A big difference.It was nothing like a professional comedian on stage telling funny stories about fictional people or celebrites that he has no access to or power over.The people in this case had in effect been kidnapped and the ones discussing raping them had total power and control over them.And anybody in authority discussing raping those they have power over is ..very very dangerous.As we already know well in Ireland.

They weren’t telling jokes. They were joking. These are two different things. Most comedians don’t tell funny stories any more. In fact, must of them invent bizarre scenarios just like the guards did, and often in very bad taste, just like the guards.

Listen to their conversation again. They’re not discussing anything and they’re not fantasising. One of them came up with an outrageous statement that a guard might make to a prisoner and they all laughed at it because it’s absurd. That’s black humour and it’s found throughout the police and emergency services everywhere. If people heard half the jokes in ambulances and fire engines, they’d be horrified.

William your posts read as if you hear what you want to hear rather what is being said. Perhaps this is the answer to bock’s question . Replace the word rape with another and no big deal!

language and especially the english language as used in ireland is a starngeanimal. Bock on the issue of your question, if a guard said I’ll kill you, does he mean to actually take your life or is he using the english language in an irish context. When we normally say jaysus I’ll kill you or I’ll murder you it is not normally used in the context of taking a life. You must have even said it to your recalcitrant dog, “jaysus get in home or i’ll bloody well kill you, the connotation is not that you will take their life but to be forceful.
Rape is in a completly different league, it is used to degrade, if they had used the word ride i would have no problem with them and think a slap on the arse would be enough for them, but this use of the word rape can only be seen in one context.
I have not heard the tape but for me the use of the the word means that the person saying wants to have non consentual sex by using force.
Maybe it’s a Mayo thing like fleadhing is used in cork, but the crux of the matter is these guys were caught saying it, and to make matters worse they are garda.
back to the original question, Any garda caught saying, give me your name or i’ll kill you, would probably face calls for his dismissal, they are only the guardians of the law, they are not above it

Sure, what about that Garda Sergeant in Donegal who was charged with rape a couple of years back and acquitted a couple of years later. Big story at the time. He alleged the girl in question was drunk and they someone ended up in a prison cell where he is alleged to have raped her. Then there was a young Garda from Dublin accused of raping a girl while off on his holliers a while back. There are quite a lot of rape allegations, charges etc, but very little coverage in the media and very recently another Garda in Dublin accused of sexual assault/harassment etc. Unfortunately it’s happening all over the country and brushed under the carpet so to speak. Shocking that five members of An Garda Siochana, one a Sergeant (who has had dealings with rape cases), allegedly having a laugh about rape. A heinous crime, right there next to murder. Not something to joke about.

I listened to the whole recording and it still boils down to the fact that five so called professional individuals thought it was hillarious to make a laugh out of… give me your name and address or I’ll rape you hahahaha, It says a lot for their mentality and they should be scolded appropriately.

There are a lot of cases (within the Gardai Siochana) where threats are made out to be a joke/laugh in the first instance and then later acted upon. I’m not brushing all the farce with the same brush, there are few with integrity out there, but the point I’m making is that it’s quite disturbing to think that there are five in the same station with the same mentality. If even one of my colleagues made a comment like that within a group, I think there would be a lorra raised eyebrows!
Was actually in the company of a young gun Garda (no pun intended!) at the weekend out socialising and he was trying to poke anything with a pulse and everyone had a bit of a larf about it. When asked what his thoughts on Mayo were, they were ones of disgust.

I think their conversation is capable of a completely different interpretation and it would be possible easily to dismantle any case against them. People are hearing what they want to hear, and I say this against my own convictions because, as you know, I think the actions of the Gardai in Erris are a disgrace.

It now turns out that one of the protesters called the garda a rapist. I wonder will all and sundry ( witch hunters) come out now and condemn this protester?

bock ur stance on this is very strange to me, go out tomorrow night and say to a girl in a pub and say what those gards. rape inplies a very disturbing crime, one that many people never ever get over. how can you compair that to a comment like i’ll crusify you. your point I get but your logic I don’t. contex is important but what the word implies and when the gardi are in a postion of power is far more important……. this is the police force that we trust to ensure our safty is this the type of behavoir that we should accept from them I’m not so sure…. the fasification of records is a far far more serious problem with this case. just shows thee ombus isn’t doing its job…..

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