The long-awaited Garda Anti-Corruption Unit will become operational just before Christmas, a full year after its planned establishment.
The unit, which it is understood will be staffed by around 30 officers, comes at a time when a record high of more than 60 gardaí and civilian staff are suspended over suspected misbehaviour.
Security sources acknowledge there has been a “sea change” in An Garda Síochána’s approach to discipline under Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
Security sources say the “time is right” for the establishment of the unit, given the high volume of cases. “It will be up and running just before Christmas,” a senior source said.
A fortnight ago, Commissioner Harris sanctioned the suspension of eight gardaí across Munster in an escalation of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in public office. These suspensions are linked to an investigation led by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations (NBCI) into allegations gardaí interfered with or quashed fixed-charge penalty notices.
In a recent separate case, a senior garda who attended a press briefing while awaiting the results of a Covid test has also been suspended. The test came back positive, leading to more than 25 gardaí, members of the press and public being required to self-isolate.
When contacted this week, Garda Headquarters confirmed that the unit is finally due to become operational.
“The establishment of the Garda Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) is at an advanced stage following an examination of the roles and functions of similar units in other police services such as the London Met and the PSNI.
“Such anti-corruption units are standard in other police services,” it said in a statement.
“Recruitment competitions for the Garda ACU at member, sergeant and inspector ranks, as well as for Garda staff, are currently under way and are expected to be finalised by early December.”
Commissioner Harris has repeatedly outlined the importance of establishing an anti-corruption unit within the force. In May last year, Mr Harris said the new unit would not only investigate complaints but would seek out corruption.
He said there were major threats that could affect the integrity of the force. “They could be things like drugs, inappropriate associations with criminal gangs and inappropriate behaviour towards vulnerable victims, towards vulnerable females in particular,” he said.
“There is no room for those in the organisation who would behave in such a way which is either crime or well outside the standards of behaviour that I, and the public, expect of members of An Garda Síochána,” he told a garda superintendents conference in May last year.
Source: Irish News