By Patrick Brogan
Is it just me or does any story involving An Garda Síochána look like it was torn out of the script of The Wire? Much of the hit American police drama focuses on the police force “juking the stats” in order to make it look like they are doing police work. The same can be said of our own police force here.
The Gardaí created 1.45 million fake breath tests, as reported by The Irish Times. The Assistant Commissioner Michael O’ Sullivan produced the report that unearthed the number of false breath tests, which led to the wrongful convictions of 14,500 people. The article goes on to say that the report “identifies three areas of fault: systems failures, an inability to understand Garda policy, and governance and oversight failures” from the period of June 2009 to April 2017.
The report said that senior management was not to blame and there was no advantage to making up false reports. It is claimed these discrepancies are a result of technical problems. However, it is very difficult to defend these damning statistics. This is not the first time that road traffic offenses were under the spotlight. Garda whistleblowers John Wilson and Maurice McCabe brought up the issue of penalty points as far back as 2008, so the issue of failures in this area of policing has long been highlighted. Then we have another whistleblower making more worrying claims. Garda Nick Keogh said that the Gardaí carried out a number of what are frankly illegal practices in relation to drug arrests.
When Nóirín O’ Sullivan was first appointed Commissioner many were worried that she was too close to the previous Commissioner to make adequate changes to the police force and indeed, we have seen much of the same culture continue. Brendan Howlin raised an interesting point when he said that funding cuts were not to blame; “You think guards need to be trained not to make up false breath tests?”
The police force is malfunctioning in this country and the media are doing very little to highlight this. How are people not out on the streets over the wrongful conviction of over 14, 000 people? If this happened in any other country it would be reported here as taking place in a banana republic. It’s about time we recognize that this is exactly what we live in.
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