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200m euro needed for GardaĆ­ to catch up on technology

A Policing Authority bi-annual report, released today, has underlined that the service needs 200m euro capital investment to enable it to catch up with the digital capabilities both of other police services and OCGs.

The service’s information and technology functions continue to face significant resource shortages, the Policing Authority has said, as the continuing backlog of devices remains an “enduring concern”.

There is now a three-year backlog on examinations of digital devices, including for child abuse imagery, which comes in spite of increases in productivity around triaging and analysing devices.

The Policing Authority has said this is a “critical weakness” and that it has the potential to have “considerable impact” on investigations and individual victims and suspects.

It pointed to the increasing numbers of devices seized, adding that it is a challenge worldwide, but also that cyber-crime is something that is unlikely to abate.

Gardai set targets in 2019 to slash waiting times to under 12 months, however it has struggled to cut times.

It is something that now needs “significant and immediate” action with regards to a resources planning perspective, the Authority has said.

“Information and technology functions – Garda IT, the Analysis Service (GSAS), and Information Services Centre (GISC) – continue to face significant resource shortages that have major impacts on their ability to ensure that the Garda Síochána possess the information and technology needed to respond to modern policing demands,” the report said.

“The rollout of the IT roadmap is reported as off target across all aspects (delivery confidence, resourcing, and dependencies) and will finish the year unachieved.

“The Authority has been consistent in its focus that the level of resources available to the Garda Síochána and its IT capacity is key for the organisation to meet both the current and foreseeable demands on it and the needs of the people it serves.”

The report said that the primary constraints are in both human and financial resources and that a €200m figure has previously been estimated. This translates to a dedicated annual budget of €40-45m for IT change and modernisation projects –in addition to the current budget which is mostly used for maintenance and running costs of current systems.

Currently 6 per cent of the police budget is committed to IT in Ireland, compared with 13-15 per cent in the UK. While for Ireland 12 per cent of the IT budget is allocated to growth and change projects where it is 28 per cent in the UK.

It is not only financial resources which are a problem, however, but there are on-going staffing issues – with around 60 per cent of IT personnel being external contractors within the service.

There was no set reason for recruitment difficulties for specialist IT staff, among others, but a range of factors were cited including slow recruitment and vetting processes as well as matters relating to organisational culture.

In spite of this, however, the report has said that performance in protecting and supporting victims has been strong and that the majority of targets are on point so far. It additionally commended the improvements with regards to victims of gender, domestic and sexual violence.

It nonetheless concluded: “As outlined, performance against the Plan at the mid-year point is a cause for concern. As in previous years this arises in the main from issues pertaining the key enabling function of HR.

“The urgent need for the prioritisation of resources, in the first instance through the strategic workforce plan, must be restated.

“This prioritisation of resources and future planning will increasingly rely on an ability to self-reflect on past and present performance.”

 

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