THE GARDA’s new armed regional support units will be deployed to handle any situation requiring an armed response and not just siege incidents, as had previously been expected.
Members of the units will be called upon to assist unarmed uniformed gardaí in performing a wide range of tasks,
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has voiced concern at the project, however.
AGSI general secretary Joe Dirwan said the new system “blurs the traditional ethos of the unarmed, uniformed gardaí, which has served this country so well”.
However, AGSI has agreed to participate in the pilot programme.
The new units have been provided with custom-built XC70 Volvo vehicles.
The cars have enhanced engines and braking and suspension systems.
They have also been fitted with secure compartments in which a range of firearms and less-than-lethal weapons will be stored until they are needed.
Groups of between two and three regional support unit members will patrol in their vehicle in their Garda divisions. When they are called on to respond to a situation, they will place an “armed response unit” sticker on the outside of their vehicle.
They will don armed response, or “tactical”, uniforms, including baseball caps and shirts, which will differentiate them from other Garda members.
In extreme cases they will wear full bullet-resistant suits.
Two regional support unit cars will operate immediately in both Cork and Limerick, meaning up to six members will be deployed at any one time in both places.
It is envisaged the units will be rolled out across the country by the end of next year.
A Garda working group, which included the Garda representative associations, was established under Mr Rice and studied best international practice before formulating the details of the new response units.
By Tom Brady Security Editor
The members will operate in purpose-built, Volvo XC 70 police specials, which are based on an estate car but have a reinforced chassis and modifications to the brakes, engine and suspension — with the off-road capability of a jeep.
[…] the turbo diesel cars, which will carry patrols of two or three officers and firearms ranging from MP7 sub machine guns and Sig handguns to less than lethal weapons.
The gardai are the first police force in the world to use this vehicle. Four XC 70s will be in use initially but an order has been placed for a total of 30.
An internal advertisement for members was oversubscribed and those selected were intensively trained in critical incident response, tactical deployment, negotiation techniques, less than lethal weapons, firearms, driving and forcing entry.
Officers said an RSU could also be used to deal with less serious issues such as serving a warrant in a difficult area.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said the RSUs would enhance the overall level of service provided by the force to the community through a multi-purpose, skilled and well equipped group of personnel.
However, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it felt the concept blurred the traditional ethos of the unarmed, uniformed gardai, which had served the country well, but it had agreed to the pilot scheme going ahead.