NEWLY promoted to the role of chief superintendent of Cork West and Cork North, Vincent O’Sullivan says that his main focus is tackling road deaths across Cork, as well as fostering a sense of community between gardaí and the public.
The West Cork native told The Echo he has “big shoes to fill”, having taken over from Con Cadogan who retired from the position of chief superintendent last October after 40 years of service.
Having already worked in the force for 25 years, Chief Supt O’Sullivan spent over two decades working in Cork City, between Gurranabraher, Watercourse Rd, and Anglesea St, and for the last two years worked in Special Tactics Operation and Command in Dublin.
Now having returned to oversee policing in the more rural West and North Cork divisions, Chief Supt O’Sullivan said that there are a lot of similarities between those regions and his old city beat.
“A lot of it is the same problems,” said Chief Supt O’Sullivan. “We all know drugs and fraud are huge issues in Irish society at the moment and in crime, and I suppose also vulnerable victims.
“It doesn’t really matter if you’re rural or whether you’re city, people are isolated and people are vulnerable. So there’s a lot of similarities.”
Getting a handle on the new role and evaluating statistics from the latest Joint Policing Committee in January, Chief Supt O’Sullivan said that the biggest challenge he is determined to tackle is reducing the number of deaths on roads across North and West Cork.
Cork had the highest number of road fatalities of any county last year at 14, with 11 of those in the West Cork division and one in Cork North.
“Between Cork West and Cork North, and Cork West in particular, we had 12 fatal collisions last year. Ten males, two females. There were two motorcyclists, one mobility scooter, and seven cars.
“That’s the biggest challenge for me now is trying to tackle that. I’m a little bit obsessed at the moment, and I’m concerned with the level of road deaths.
“We also had a lot of serious injury traffic incidents, and some of those people ended up with life-changing injuries.
“It’s a very real risk out there for the people in Cork county, and it’s something that I’m very conscious of.
“Speed is a factor in a third of all our fatal accidents, we learned that last year, and we’re still seeing it. And, unfortunately, people are still drink driving.
“Drink driving is a big factor in fatal accidents. They are areas we really need to work on this year to try and reduce road deaths.”
Chief Supt O’Sullivan said that while Garda visibility on Cork roads can help, “a lot of it at the end of the day is down to driver behaviour and decision making”.
“I’d be encouraging people just to think, in general. Plan your night ahead, don’t take the chance on drinking and driving
“If you’re driving on a road, try and drive the road to the conditions. Just because the speed limit is there it’s not a target. There’s a big difference between driving on an icy road or a foggy road as opposed to driving in the middle of a summer’s day.”
Another major focus of Cork’s new chief superintendent is fostering connections between gardaí and local communities, something that he said has already grown stronger out of the pandemic.
“If there was one good positive out of Covid, it was that it gave gardaí a chance to reconnect with people and reconnect with communities.
“With Covid, it was unusual in that we had less courts, we had less demands for other types of policing, so we were more operational and we were out and about more, and we were meeting people more frequently.
“I have no doubt people were getting sick of being stopped as well, and it was a very tough time for everyone, but, to be fair, people were very good and very decent with us.
“It came back to our core function, where we’re here to keep people safe and that’s what we were trying to do. People got a chance to interact with gardaí and to get to know their gardaí again, which obviously is great for us.”
He said that maintaining a good relationship between communities and gardaí is crucial to tackling certain issues, such as rural crime.
“I would encourage people, if they see something that they’re not happy with or they see something that’s suspicious, to then ring it in.
“If it turns out to be nothing so be it, but these crimes and particularly rural crime, they don’t have a cloak of invisibility, they’re in amongst us,” he said.
“If you’re not happy with the way somebody is acting, or somebody is acting suspiciously, ring it in. If you get a car number, brilliant, and we can follow it up from there.”
Speaking about his ambitions in the new role, Chief Supt O’Sullivan said that he hopes to look back when his tenure is over and be able to say he made some contribution to Cork communities, in keeping them safe.
“[Con Cadogan] had done a lot of work and has a lot of good community relations set up, so I’m trying to build on that now and bring it on further.
“By building good relationships with the community, that people aren’t isolated or left vulnerable through lack of engagement with gardaí or police, that the communities will recognise that we’re there to help them and we’re there to work with them,” he said.