By Rebecca Black, PA
Gardaí are set to receive enhanced and additional safety equipment after a recent spate of attacks on officers.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met with the four Garda representative associations around assaults and recruitment later on Monday.
Mr Harris condemned the assaults, and said the organisation would be seeking to procure enhanced and additional safety equipment for gardaí, as well as providing further training.
He also outlined his support for the introduction of body cams.
The force has experienced a drop in the number of gardaí as a result of Covid-19 restrictions on training.
However, Mr Harris said staff numbers have increased by 1,200 in recent years.
The staff increase has enabled more than 800 gardaí to be released from administrative roles to operational duties in areas such as tackling street level drug dealing, and preventing and detecting sexual crime and domestic abuse.
Mr Harris said in 2023 An Garda Síochána was planning to have classes of approximately 200 garda students in the Garda College every 11/12 weeks.
Annual recruitment competitions for gardaí will also be introduced with the first of these going live in the first quarter of this year.
Around 450 gardaí left the organisation in 2022, with 340 retiring and 109 resigning.
Mr Harris also revealed that exit interviews will be introduced to examined why those who resigned are leaving the force.
“The safety of gardaí is of utmost importance and concern for An Garda Síochána, myself as Commissioner, and all four Garda Representative Associations,” he said.
“Regrettably, already this year we have seen a number of serious assaults on gardai.
“While all gardai accept policing has its risks, there can never be any excuse for these disgraceful attacks.
“It is not acceptable that a small minority in society, and it is only a small minority, feel that gardaí can be attacked just because they are carrying out their duties.
“The vast majority of the public have great respect for the work that gardaí do to keep them safe, their professionalism and dedication, and their empathy, particularly when engaging with the most vulnerable in our society.
“I will continue to ensure we provide gardaí with the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.”
Mr Harris said he is looking forward to welcoming more recruits, and said he is confident the force will return to a situation where garda numbers are growing.
“I have said this before, but I not only want to get to the current target of 15,000 gardaí, but given population growth, demographic change and the rapidly changing nature of crime, I believe there is a strong case for there to be more than 15,000 gardaí,” he said.