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As I looked through my dose of news from overseas I came across this article which focuses on the Irish police service but which I feel could apply to some departments here. At any rate it is certainly food for thought and perhaps a comment:

A STRIKING feature of a dinner held last weekend to mark the retirement of one of the Garda's most experienced detectives was its guests. Dozens upon dozens of retired detectives who, if they were in any other profession, would be at the peak of their careers filled the main dining room of Dublin's Burlington Hotel at the dinner for former Assistant Commissioner Martin Donnellan.
Much of the talk on the night among these fit and healthy-looking index-linked State pensioners was how the profession of the detective appears to be dying.
The detective's place in the hierarchy of the Garda Siochana is, according to several of the retired officers, being taken over by a new breed of administrator, mostly with third-level qualifications in law, public administration or human resources. The rules on early retirement in the Garda, where all but the commissioner have to retire at 60, and the trend in recent years of experienced detectives failing in the promotion stakes has led to the sidelining of one of the core proficiencies in policing.
The result can be seen in the extraordinarily high level of unsolved gang murders, particularly in Dublin, where the current conviction rate for a homicide shooting is running at about one in 50. Limerick, whose chief superintendent Willy Keane has just been promoted to assistant commissioner, has bucked the national trend with almost all of its gangland murders leading to charges and a period of unprecedented peace in the city. According to gardai in the Burlington, Limerick under Willy Keane, stuck to traditional basic skills and got it right. Most of the serious criminals in Limerick are behind bars.
Aside from Martin Donnellan, the list of retired detectives in the Burlington was led by another former assistant commissioner, Tony Hickey. Hickey is the man who put together the team that broke John Gilligan's gang in the aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin. Hickey, too, was at the peak of his powers when he retired three years ago at the age of 60.
Members of Hickey's hand-picked team for the Veronica Guerin investigation are also among the serious detective talent lost in recent times. Detective inspector Todd O'Loughlin retired early two years ago. O'Loughlin, who spent much of his career in the Investigation Section (known as the murder squad) in the Technical Bureau was one of Hickey's first choices for his team at Lucan. O'Loughlin and Hickey brought in a raft of detectives from around the country who brought with them skills mostly garnered from work with the Technical Bureau Murder Squad. It is the last time such an array of detective skills was assembled in the State. What has happened since is a mark of the decline in the standing of the detective in the force. After the Veronica Guerin case, Todd O'Loughlin was stationed as detective inspector at Lucan. Friends said he made one application for promotion but was passed over in favour of one of the new breed of "qualified" administrators. He stayed where he was and then decided to leave.
James 'Bernie' Hanley, another of the detectives who figured in the Veronica case, was one of the force's most skilled interrogators, a west Cork man with an easy-going personality that hides an extraordinarily sharp mind. Along with another retired detective sergeant, Pat Lynagh, Hanley had the ability to coax confessions out of culprits, always sticking strictly to the "judge's rules" governing interrogations. Up to recent years, it was estimated that 80 per cent of murder cases were solved with the assistance of confessions. Scandals in recent years, including the false confession elicited from the young Dublin man, Dean Lyons in the Grangegorman double murder case, have effectively killed the confession as a tool in murder investigation.
New rules imposed by Garda management mean that interrogators have to painstakingly write down every question and every reply in long-hand as the interview is taking place -- even though the interrogation is also being audio and video taped. One retired senior officer described the system of note-taking in interviews as "the laughing stock of modern policing".
The same officer, who preferred not to be named, drew the rise and fall of the detective trade in Irish policing over the last generation to the time of former deputy commissioner John Paul McMahon, who died last year.
His protege was Paddy Culligan, who retired 12 years ago as commissioner. "When a murder was solved anywhere in the country, both of those two men rang the local chief to congratulate him and to pass on their thanks to the team. Small things but important," the former colleague said.
McMahon and Culligan saw the importance of outside training and sent selected detectives to the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police Academy in Wakefield, then regarded as Europe's leading detective school, from which many of the new trends in forensic detection emerged.
"Detailed investigation was everything and most of the detective sergeants in the murder squad who later became D. inspectors and D. supers trained in the Detective Training College in Wakefield. They were brilliant and they passed on their knowledge to divisional teams around the country," he said.
McMahon and Culligan, he said, "had the knack of picking out and identifying a few good men in each division whom they coached and trust and loyalty became the unwritten rule along with strict compliance with the law and respect for evidence".
He went on: "The divisional detective sergeant was the key man and if he was good and trusted by the 'squad', success was guaranteed in almost all cases."
He said the skills gleaned from these figures solved one of the most difficult cases undertaken by the Garda, the kidnapping of dentist John O'Grady by the terror gang led by Dessie O'Hare. A ticket to a Christmas drinks party found in a shed in Cork where Mr O'Grady had been held was traced back to the drinks rep who received it. He told gardai he had passed it on to his barber. Investigation of this man led to the gang's hideout in Cabra where one of the detectives, Martin O'Connor, was shot and almost killed. The gang, however, was tracked down and Mr O'Grady freed.
"That kind of dedication and devotion to duty I think is lacking today, not because we don't have the talent in the force now but because they have not been trained and coached in the skills of good detective work. [So many] have left and taken their knowledge with them," the officer observed.
"Someone in their wisdom, or lack of it, decided that funding be withdrawn for the courses run at Wakefield Detective Training College and that they would be trained instead at Templemore. Who did they get to do the training -- uniform sergeants who read it in books but never walked the walk. Things like finding, preserving, examining, storing and presenting evidence as well as court practice and procedure and the law of evidence were not covered, nor were the skills needed to properly interview witnesses and suspects.
"Despite advances in forensic science, 80 per cent of all convictions secured over the years right up to the present time are secured by admissions and confessions so it is the skills necessary to do that that were neglected in training and continue to be. Templemore is not a police college except for very basic and elementary recruit training. It is very good at that but not for development courses or senior command courses," he said.
According to the former officer, "what is needed is a good selection system for detectives -- more important than promotion really in an Irish context. Some supers and chiefs who have never been a detective -- most of the current ones have not -- do not appreciate this and give D/Os a hard time."
IRISH INDEPENDENT
 
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