DONEGAL’S new chief superintendent will oversee three Garda divisions as part of the biggest ever shake up of the force.
Aidan Glacken takes over the senior post from Terry McGinn who retired earlier this month. Unlike his predecessor who was responsible for one county, he will manage Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim.
The amalgamation comes as part of a national restructuring announced last year. The new system will see five superintendents stationed across the three counties – three in Donegal, one in Sligo and one in Leitrim. There will also be a dedicated crime superintendent in the north west for the first time ever.
The joining of the divisions will increase Chief Superintendent Glacken’s workload considerably with almost 1,000 officers operating under him.
But the Sligo native said it was about making sure he had good people around him to help implement the new model.
“The idea is that a lot of the bureaucracy and administration that certain superintendents would have, it will be uplifted to special business services areas that deal with things like HR and finance. It is just remodelling the function to allow superintendents to have a more continual connection across community engagement and partnership.
“In terms of my point of view, it broadens my span of control and my work base to 900 or 1,000 staff but it is about having the people around you to manage that.”
Resources, or lack of them, have long been a bone of contention in Donegal.
Aidan Glacken said that officer numbers were an issue across the state but that it was his intention to make sure his areas have the cover they need.
“Donegal has a certain uniqueness because it has a very large geographical area and a substantial area of border which brings its own complexities. In terms of recruiting, there have been less numbers recruited than would be preferable and that is going to have an impact in terms of the allocation of resources.
“It would be my intention to ensure that Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim have full representation in terms of resources, whether that is physical resources, tech or whatever else is required. We do draw on our regional resources in terms of our armed response, in terms of cyber or other specialist areas and we also draw on our national units.
“But there is always pressure for resource allocation and it is a matter for the commissioner. It is my job to ensure the people we have working for us are able to do the job in a safe manner and are able to concentrate on the core function of keeping people safe and reducing harm in communities. That will be my core intent and I will also ensure we have the required levels of visibility so people know we are readily accessible. But that challenge is equally met by the geography of the area,” he added.
Like many sectors, recruitment has become problematic for An Garda Síochána. Official figures show that little over 90 students entered Templemore Garda College this year compared to the target of 800 set by the government.
Aidan Glacken said there was no getting away from the fact that being a police officer was a tough job and not always well paid.
On why it is becoming harder to find new recruits he said, “There are many opportunities for people in terms of careers and travel is much easier these days. But fundamentally recruitment is impacted by what makes people look for work and pay and conditions is one of those things.
“In terms of the pay recruits get, I don’t think it is on par with other employment sectors and people are voting with their feet. But it would also be remiss of me not to say it – we have seen how challenging the job of a Garda is and we have seen how rewarding it is. It is a privilege to be able to serve, protect and give to our communities.
“That is a privilege of public service that sometimes can be forgotten in terms of the really difficult job our staff do, 365 days a year.
“We pride ourselves on being diverse and having a diverse workforce but there are other probably more attractive options for young people to steer their careers in a particular direction. That is going to be a challenge and there are issues around the initial pay and conditions.”
The 57-year-old said another factor was likely to be the rising instances of serious assaults on members. Last month a Garda officer suffered horrendous facial injuries in an attack in Ballyfermot while closer to home, a patrol vehicle was rammed in an incident in Ballyshannon less than two weeks ago.
Garda Glacken said, “Over the last number of years we have seen an increase in assaults on gardaí. We have had officers spat at, threatened, assaulted, driven at in their cars and unfortunately that leads to injuries. And every time a guard is injured it is one less guard in the community, one less person that is visible and one less person to respond.
“That is a real difficulty because seeing someone being assaulted in their workplace does not make a job attractive.
“Equally though the commitment and resolve given by every member of An Garda Síochána and our staff goes without question.
“As an organisation for the last 100 years we have responded to crisis on a continual basis, whether on the border, more recently with the pandemic or locally to a crisis like what happened in Creeslough.”
The rise in violent attacks on officers has sparked a call from the Garda Representative Association for tasers to be made available to all frontline gardaí.
Officer Glacken said it was not something he would be in favour of.
“We are a largely unarmed organisation and I would like to ensure we remain an unarmed organisation.
“We do have pepper spray and we have our batons which every officer carries. In terms of what else is required, an organisational evaluation needs to be done to ensure that our people are adequately equipped to deal with what they are facing on a daily basis.”
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