By Jonathan McCambridge and Dominic McGrath, PA
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said he wants to see more women join the police to help boost public confidence in the force.
Mr Harris was speaking as he opened the International Association of Women in Policing conference in Dublin.
More than 200 delegates from police forces in over 60 countries have gathered for the conference, which coincides with International Women’s Day.
The commissioner said having the conference in Ireland was a sign of how seriously he took gender representation as well as the Gardai’s international relationships with other police forces.
He said: “Women make up 28% of An Garda Siochana.
“That’s very credible in terms of a European perspective, we’d be well up there with one of the highest performing organisations in that way.
“The latest figures I have seen is that approximately 40% of applicants are women so that’s very important as well.
“And then only yesterday I promoted approximately 30 women to the rank of sergeant and so women are progressing in the organisation as well.
“Where it helps us is in terms of the strength of the team. Strength on a team comes through diversity and that strength also comes from array of skills and a range of thinking to what are very difficult and complex problems, but also it’s about representation as a policing service.
“All these are important (for) public confidence and also our success as an organisation.
“That’s really fundamental to how we do and we want to see more women join and we want to see more women from ethnic minorities join as well.”
Mr Harris said work had been done in recent years around the culture of the Gardai, including dealing with sexism.
He said: “We’ve put in place training in terms of leadership and development and the behaviours we wish to see.
“So I can’t say we’re exempt, it would be very foolish for me to say that we’re exempt from the problems that we see in other policing services, but what we have to do is make sure that we do not allow it to exist or grow, that we constantly combat it.
“I don’t think, looking forward to the future, we’ll say that we’ve successfully eradicated sexism or misogynist behaviour. This is something we all must be on guard against.”
The commissioner also said having a more representative force is helping more victims of domestic abuse to come forward.
“Being more representative of the community we serve is about public confidence, which is about reporting, and what we do know is that crimes of domestic abuse, serious sexual assault are underreported.
“We want to be in a position where we provide a very professional service.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always women members who are dealing with these crimes, but… us being representative of people feeling confident coming forward to us.”