In 2004 Mr Justice Morris identifed in his first report on the Morris Tribunal a culture of ‘us and them’ in the Gardaí. The Gardaí he investigated saw themselves as removed from society in some way. In his recommendations in that first report, Justice Morris called for increased recruitment from ethnic minority groups to break down those concepts of ‘us’. He stated:
“If a sector of society providing one of the most important functions of a democratic society is monolithic in its makeup then that attitude is reinforced.”
This was echoed in 2005 by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell T.D. who reported:
"The Force is in danger of becoming detached from the community. Its members are in danger of becoming relative strangers to the community they police....... a sense of alienation and drifting apart between the community and the Garda Síochána ....... has been increasingly expressed to public representatives right across the country by ordinary citizens of good will towards the force".
In 2008 the Gardai had set out in their Strategic Goals an aim of 5% of new recruits being from an ethnic minority background but achieved just 2.2%. This is woefully inadequate as 12% of Irish residents are non-nationals. Ethnic diversity within An Garda Siochana has barely changed since 1996 when just 1% of Irish residents were of foreign birth.
The number of non-Irish nationals in 2002 was recorded at 224,261 persons. By 2006 this had increased to 419,733 representing an increase of 87 per cent. The growth in the number of non-Irish nationals has continued and their number stood at 544,357 at the time of the 2011 Census. The number of non-Irish national full-time trainees and full-time attested members of the Force is 46 (12/6/09), of which almost half (20) are originally from China. 12 nations with over 10,000 residents accounted for 74.4 per cent of all non-Irish nationals in 2011. By far, the largest single group of non-national residents is from Poland with a population of 120,461 yet only 9 Gardai (as of 2009) have been recruited from this community. Lithuanian non-nationals fare even worse, with a population of 34,579, just one solitary person has been recruited to An Garda Siochana. Latvian, Indian, Slovakian and Philippian non-national residents with a combined population of almost 60 thousand have no representation in the ranks of An Garda Siochana.
The Garda Racial, Intercultural & Diversity Office (GRIDO) was established 14 years ago. In that time only 270 ethnic liaison officers have received training across the country to work with individuals and groups in minority communities in an attempt to ensure that they feel they can turn to An Garda Síochána for help when they need it. Not surprisingly this approach is unique in Europe, training officers to 'accommodate' non-nationals is a far sight short of true integration through targeted recruitment of non-nationals as is the case in other European, multi-cultural societies.
The chief constable overseeing Police recruitment in England and Wales, Alex Marshall head of the new College of Policing, said quotas, as used in Northern Ireland, may be necessary to ensure a radical overhaul of the racial makeup of urban forces. A 50-50 recruitment process was introduced to increase the numbers of Catholics joining the police in Northern Ireland. When it was introduced in 2001, Catholics made up about 8% of the police service. By 2010, the level had risen to just over 27%. Currently, 29.76% of officers come from the Catholic community.
Marshall, formerly the chief constable of Hampshire police, in which role he won an award last year for promoting the interests of lesbian and gay officers, said: "There are lots of forces with relatively low black and multi-ethnic populations and they are already starting to do really well on recruiting. It is a much harder challenge for the big city forces. The Met are really pushing the boundaries; they are trying incredibly hard to recruit Londoners who represent people of London in the way they are and the way they look, from all races and all populations."
In England and Wales under Labour's 2010 Equalities Act, police forces can recruit an officer from black and multi-ethnic communities over an equally qualified candidate on the grounds of improving the diversity of their staff. In November 2013, the UK government issued guidance to police forces to encourage them to use such "positive action".
As the recruitment freeze begins to loosen, it is imperative that 'New Blood' is actively sought to increase the ethnic diversity and capabilities of An Garda Siochana. A monolithic Force in a multi-cultural society is doomed to make serious mistakes in minority communities which may even impinge on the rights of parents and children................. OH!