Athlone’s Civic Offices hosted an open evening with the Commission on the Future of Policing last Thursday, kicking off a programme of nationwide events designed to allow members of the public, local community groups and other interested stakeholders to have their opinions heard.
The meeting saw individual members of the public, interested parties and local public representatives discuss a range of policing issues with Commission head Kathleen O’Toole and other Commission members. The Commission also visited Garda stations in the region as part of its outreach programme.
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland was established by the Government in May 2017, at a critical time for policing in Ireland. After several high-profile scandals that led to the resignation of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald recently, many feel that trust between Irish citizens and police has been irreparably damaged.
“Most people in local communities still support their local Gardaí, but public confidence in police has been shaken to some extent,” Kathleen told the Athlone Advertiser before the event.
Speaking to attendees, Ms O’Toole said: “This is a huge opportunity, and every crisis presents an opportunity. Public trust has been shaken to some extent, and it’s time to get back on track.”
Kathleen O’Toole is the current Chief of Police in Seattle, USA. She has worked in Ireland before and has extensive family connections to the Athlone area.
Following the Athlone meeting, the commission will be traveling around the country to gauge public opinion and the opinions of Gardaí. “What’s good for one community may not be good for another,” said O’Toole. “Each jurisdiction has its own unique characteristics and challenges, so it’s important that we get out and listen to people outside Dublin.”
Speaking at the event, Mayor Aengus O’Rourke said that he looks forward to a return to community policing, where Gardaí on the streets would be in constant contact with citizens.
Members of the public are invited to make submissions online at policereform.ie before the deadline of January 31st 2018. The Commission is due to report to the Minister for Justice and Equality by September 2018.