Irish American homicide detective, Edward Foy, has witnessed Irish police being intimidated on the street by intoxicated offenders. He believes the time has come for Irish police to carry guns.
The 39-year U.S. law enforcement veteran explained what he had witnessed on St. Patrick's Day in Dublin this year, in an column on Journal.ie. While heading back to his hotel off Grafton Street he and his colleague, who were also on vacation, spotted a group of police who were being surrounded by "intoxicated youthful offenders".
Foy said "I watched, thinking “I hope these thugs are not armed with a gun or edged weapon.” Because when you go up against multiple individuals who are under the influence, it’s dangerous. And the only weapon they have is a nightstick. In my opinion, arming these officers with nothing but a baton in these conditions is simply reckless."
After observing the situation for a number of minutes Foy and his buddies stepped in. He said "The officers knew we were cops – and we just basically stood around the two of them. It could have been really ugly; but there were four of us, and we’re above average size, and we had their back. So when the crowd was dispersed they thanked us and we on about our business, they went about theirs."
The homicide detective said the difference between being armed with a nightstick or a gun is "an unwritten respect".
He said "If I’m going into a confrontation with seven, eight individuals, and I’m armed, they know it. So they’re going to take a second thought about getting into a confrontation. But these thugs, they knew that the maximum protection of these two garda officers was an expandable baton. If I’m a thug in that situation, I’ve got to think I like my odds. But if I have to deal with an officer who’s got a firearm, I’m going to think twice."
Foy calls to mind a horrific recent incident which could have ended differently had the police officer been carrying a gun. He said "Recently there was a case of a garda who was attending a domestic disturbance, and he had boiling oil thrown in his face. Now when I look at that, I think: Would that incident have brought about the use of a firearm? Probably not. But would that person have thrown the grease knowing that the officer was armed? That’s the question."
He says the fact that Irish police are going on their daily beat with limited resources is "mind boggling" to him and his colleagues. He explained "I follow the Irish media, and in my estimation there has been a serious escalation in gun crime since six or seven years ago. It’s reckless to have unarmed officers dealing with that kind of situation."
He continued I really feel sorry for the Irish officers, in a way. Because they don’t have that protection. I know that a lot of the higher level guys dealing with organized crime are armed. But I also know that the street-level people are your first line of defense. When you see the stories about these guys being injured, or dying – it’s appalling. They’ve got families, they’ve got children. If I’m an officer, and I’ve got four or five kids, I want to go home to them every night."
Foy has worked in law enforcement in the United States for 39 years and regularly visits Ireland. He currently works at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, in Florida. He told Journal.ie "My great-grandparents on both sides were born in Ireland, one in Donegal and the other in Mayo, and I regularly visit Ireland with some other officers of Irish heritage."