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Garda chief Drew Harris reports road traffic accidents down across Ireland

Commissioner Harris said gardaí had 'sought to increase our presence in rural areas' like Donegal Picture by Brian Lawless/PA

GARDA Commissioner Drew Harris has said that road traffic collisions are down across Ireland, in part due to enforcement undertaken by Gardaí.

"One death on the road is one death too many," he said.

"One of the principle areas, of driving under the influence, there you can see statistics around heightened breath testing, which reduces deaths and serious injuries, which is why we're here, we're here to keep people safe."

Speaking at a Policing Authority public meeting in Dublin, Commissioner Harris said: "We have sought to increase our presence in rural areas, Donegal for instance, with young men driving very fast leading to terrible accidents, to prevent that as a public good, we're dedicated to that."

added: "We have a central role in promoting road safety, there has been more focus on that through roads policing, and that has driven activity (from officers).

"We believe there's an absolute connection between driver behaviour and the amount of road traffic collisions.

"There's no other motive other than keeping people safe."

On the culture within the Gardaí, since a review of culture among officers was published, Mr Harris said he wanted to lead a new era in the force.

"Closely aligned to culture is the behaviour within the organisation," he said.

"We have focused on a victims-centred police service, responsive to local communities and a learning organisation.

"We're a public service, and our focus should always be outward-looking – it's too easy to become insular."

"The shorthand findings from the cultural audit, that is the root by which then we will impact culture within the organisation," Mr Harris said.

"We're already having an impact. It used to be silence meant survival. Some people were allowed to get away with discreditable behaviour.

"Leadership and accountability: we've set out that leaders should be models for what we want to see in the organisation.

"As you rise you have more influence and if there is some doubt about your behaviour, there is a doubt whether you should be promoted or not.

"The public expect that – within the Garda Síochána they should be able to trust them to the ends of the earth."

Mr Harris said the Gardaí is expected to deliver big-ticket items this year.

"We're not far off in respect of those but what's important to us all is that staff on the ground can see visible change," he said.

"We have a vision and are launching that in May with senior staff, with a concentration around our strategy for the future of policing.

"In time we'll have to think about revisiting the cultural audit to see how we're progressing.

"That should be done around 2020, that would be a good year to think about it."

"I think as a senior leadership team there is an alignment, people understand the importance of this time for the organisation," Mr Harris told the Policing Authority board members.

"It's a time of great reform and endeavour.

"There's a big demand for body-worn video for instance, for member safety, and evidence in domestic violence incidents, for example, but that requires legislation."

On officer behaviour, Mr Harris said: "People want strong, visible, ethical leadership and transparency in dealings with us and certainty around that.

"When I say I expect exemplary behaviour, I also expect fairness.

"I probably haven't listed all the sins and vices I wish to avoid but they would be obvious.

"People have seen the change already. Actions speak louder than words."

"When I go out to stations mostly unannounced I'm always taken by the quality of people," Mr Harris added.

"I can't understand how 50 per cent of these people haven't signed the code of ethics.

"More analysis may help, but it does hit oddly with my own personal experience with the people."

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