COVID policing powers used more in Galway than anywhere else

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galway daily news Twelve newly sworn Gardaí assigned to North-Western Region

Gardaí in Galway have utilised COVID-19 policing powers more than any other Garda Division in Ireland a new report from the Policing Authority has shown.

There have been 66 reported uses of policing powers granted under COVID-19 regulations in Galway from April 8 up to October 31.

This is more than twice as many incidents as the vast majority of divisions with the exception of Cavan/Monaghan (58), Donegal (38), and Dublin North (38).

Though the number of usages of COVID-19 powers in Galway were higher than other divisions, the Policing Authority report stresses that “examination of data at station level does not identify any issues of the use of powers being centralised in one locality”.

The Policing Authority, the statutory body created for oversight of An Garda Síochána, released it’s ninth report on the performance of the Gardaí in the COVID-19 crisis on Wednesday.

It found that there has generally been a “comprehensive observance” of Level 5 restrictions by the public overall.

Engagement with business organisations representing those most affected by the restriction found that they had a “generally positive” view of the Gardaí’s approach to inspections and enforcement.

Since April 8, Gardaí have exercised powers under COVID-19 regulations a total of 703 times, with 103 new incidents since the last Policing Authority report.

Policing Authority Chairperson, Bob Collins said “From the outset of this public health crisis, the Garda Síochána has been called on to assume a role that touches on very many aspects of the lives of all who live in this state.

“It has taken an extraordinary effort to organise and deploy the level of resources that have been assigned to this work.”

“All elements of this response make their own contribution to the overall outcome that is desired, but some will have longer lasting significance than others.”

“In terms of safety and social impact, the echoes of the work on sexual crime, on domestic violence and on community engagement will resound for a very long time.”

The “grim truth” he said, is that what the majority of people view as a health emergency is instead viewed as an opportunity by some people involved with organised crime, or who “prey on the vulnerable”.

In the North Western Region there have been a total of 242 incidents of COVID-19 powers being uses. Gardaí have carried out 14,237 checkpoints in the region, and anti-spit hoods have been deployed on 24 occasions.

There have been a total of 532 “crime incidents” in the region connected to COVID-19 from April to the end of October.

Engagement with community groups by the Policing Authority found that there has been a “sensibly, fairly and consistently applied” police usage of the 4 E’s: engage, explain,
encourage and enforce.

There has also been strong appreciation for the ‘minutes on the doorstep’ approach to increased community engagement, especially with older people, and an expressed desire to see this continue past lockdown.

Concerns were expressed that where there is a perception that a “cohort within the community is typically treated differently” than the bulk of the public, that this will also be true of COVID enforcement.