Garda Regional Support Unit
|Garda Armed Support Unit|
Tacaiochta Faoi Arm
|Formed||2008 (pilot), 2012 (5 regions), 2016 (Dublin region)|
|Republic of Ireland|
|Operations jurisdiction||Republic of Ireland|
|Legal jurisdiction||Eastern, Northern, Southern, South-Eastern, Western and Dublin regions|
|Governing body||Department of Justice and Equality|
|Parent agency||Garda Síochána|
|Specialties||Specialist armed/tactical response|
Armed airport and port patrols
|Vehicles||BMW 5 Series|
Armed Support Units (ASU) (Irish: Tacaiochta Faoi Arm) are specialist armed response units of the Garda Síochána, the national police force of Ireland. Based in all six Garda regions in the country, Garda ASU officers carry a combination of lethal firearms and non-lethal weapons, as opposed to regular uniformed Gardaí who are unarmed. They are similar to Authorised Firearms Officers of British police forces. The Armed Support Unit was previously known as the Regional Support Unit (RSU) until mid-2017.
A Garda Armed Support Unit may be called out to support local Garda officers in certain high-risk operations. This principally involves offering armed assistance to otherwise unarmed Gardaí who are dealing with an incident in which firearms or other weapons (knives, etc.) have been produced. It also includes:
- Confronting and disarming persons who are carrying knives or guns
- Saving a person's life through use of a defibrillator which they carry and are qualified to use
- Providing tactical support to other gardaí carrying out searches
- Carrying out high visibility static and rolling checkpoints and other operations to counteract the movements of criminals
- Overt armed airport and port patrols to counter terrorist attacks
The first Regional Support Unit (RSU) was formed in 2008, following recommendations made by the Barr Tribunal, which brought the existence and role of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) to public attention (April 2000, see Death of John Carthy), and questioned the Dublin-based units' ability to reach other areas of the country quickly.
Regional Support Units were originally assigned to support five individual Garda regions – administrative areas drawn on geographical lines which include the Eastern, Northern, Southern, South-Eastern and Western regions – but not the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR), which had remained the sole responsibility of the ERU. The first RSU was formed on a pilot basis in the Southern Region (the administrative area which includes counties Cork, Limerick and Kerry).
As of 2012, RSU units began operating on a full-time permanent armed basis in the Eastern, Northern, Southern, South-Eastern and Western regions after a trial period. Serious incidents such as barricaded sieges, hostage takings or terrorism triggers the response of the ERU anywhere in Ireland.
In 2016 it was decided that a sixth Regional Support Unit be established in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) to counteract the growing threat of gangland drug crime and terrorism risks. Previously the Dublin Garda region had been under the authority of the Garda ERU. As part of this process, the name Regional Support Unit was replaced by the term Armed Support Unit (ASU).
The Dublin ASU began operating in early 2016 with a complement of 55-60 full-time armed officers, including 5 sergeants. The Dublin-based unit is equipped with marked and unmarked vehicles, and was officially launched in late 2016.
In April 2016 it was confirmed that Armed Support Units would be deployed overtly to patrol both Dublin Airport and Dublin Port full-time on foot inside terminal buildings and via vehicles outside and surrounding the perimeter, carrying sub-machine guns, sidearms, tasers and other specialist equipment to counter the rising threat of terrorist attacks in Europe.
Training and manpower
Garda ASU officers undergo training over a thirteen-week period, which includes instruction in:
- Critical incident response
- Tactical deployment
- Conflict resolution
- Negotiation techniques
- Deployment protocols and controls
- Dynamic entry methods
- Tactical driving
- First aid
- Use of less lethal options and firearms
- Other relevant skills.
The Garda ERU are responsible for ASU training. Some ASU officers later go on to join the ERU. The membership of the Armed Support Unit consists exclusively of serving officers in the Garda Síochána, who must have at least 4 years experience and a clean disciplinary record.
There are Armed Support Units in all six regions, each has at least 24 members (Dublin has 55 to 60 members), putting the overall manpower at more than 175. The command of the ASU is the Regional Detective Superintendent. The ASU falls under the Garda's Special Operations & Tactics Command.
ASU weapons include;
- SIG Sauer P226 9mm self-loading pistol
- Heckler & Koch MP7 submachine gun (with ammunition that can penetrate body armour)
- Benelli M4 Super 90 semi-automatic shotgun
ASU units also carry less-lethal weapons, such as;
Armed Support Units operate Volvo V70 XC70 (police variant) and Audi Q7 vehicles. Also introduced in late 2016 were BMW 5 Series Touring vehicles, costing €70,000 each with a top speed of 233 km/h (145 mph), replacing the older fleet of XC70s. In late 2017 BMW X5s were also introduced, along with one Ford Transit tactical support van.
The ASU vehicles are specially modified and distinguishable from other Garda vehicles by battenburg markings, the words "ARMED SUPPORT UNIT" on the doors and a distinctive red stripe along each side. The Volvo XC70s featured a light bar on the roof with an illuminated red message scroller bearing the term "GARDA ARMED SUPPORT UNIT", however newer vehicles feature a low profile light bar and XC70s in service in Dublin have been refitted with a more standard light bar. Older vehicles have been remarked to match the current style (original vehicles did not feature the red stripe and had a different, slightly less bright reflective pattern).
- Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU)
- Headquarters Mobile Support Unit (Police Service of Northern Ireland)
- Specialist Firearms Command (Metropolitan Police Service)
- Specialist Firearms Officer
- Authorised Firearms Officer
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