The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), Ireland’s independent policing oversight body, is looking ahead to the reforms envisaged in the General Scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill.
GSOC was established in 2007 to provide independent oversight of policing in Ireland. We investigate complaints from the public concerning the conduct of members of An Garda Síochána. These complaints can be of criminal or disciplinary nature, or both. Working from our Dublin headquarters, and regional offices in Cork and Longford, we operate in 26 counties, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, functioning as an important element of Garda Síochána oversight. Our work is challenging, and results depend on the skill and dedication of our busy staff.
The question of reform in policing and in policing oversight in Ireland has been centre stage since the publication of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in 2018. The resulting programme of reform proposes sweeping changes to the composition and mandate of GSOC, which was sketched out in the general scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill in 2021.
The proposed legislation will significantly enhance the institutional independence of GSOC, giving it its own accounting officer and vote. It will see an automatic referral of all complaints to GSOC in the first instance, and provides for the streamlining of the investigative process, allowing disciplinary matters and criminal matters to be examined concurrently.
Preparation for these changes has been a core focus of GSOC’s work since 2021. Planning for organisational reform is a task for all staff and a cross-organisational transition project group is coordinating this work. Working with the Department of Justice, our transition process aims to create an institutional structure that is suitably resourced and staffed to meet GSOC’s new remit once it is in place.
The changes set out in the draft legislation are a prime opportunity to take steps towards fulfilling GSOC’s vision of a first-rate, human rights based policing oversight organisation that is strategically and logistically fit for purpose, and compliant with internationally-recognised standards of best practice. GSOC is looking forward to working with all stakeholders in this process in the months and years ahead.