Ireland's police chief resigns in phone-tap row

AP News
Posted: Mar 25, 2014 1:06 PM
Ireland's police chief resigns in phone-tap row

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland's police chief resigned Tuesday following months of criticism of how his force handled allegations of illegal wire-tapping and corrupt enforcement of traffic laws.

Underscoring a growing sense of public unease at police standards and behavior, government leaders announced that they would open a judge-led probe into new revelations that telephone calls at many police stations had been illegally recorded since the 1980s.

The government said it didn't yet know why the widespread recording was secretly happening. Security analysts said it could partly reflect an effort by senior commanders to monitor rank-and-file officers' communications.

In a statement, Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Cabinet said the government would pursue an "extensive program of reform" to protect whistleblowers within the police force, make the police provide Freedom of Information Act disclosures and create a new civilian oversight body for the police.

It said a judge would be appointed to examine why police had secretly recorded telephone conversations in and out of many police stations for several years, a practice ended only in November after the first wire-tap scandal became public knowledge.

Hours before their move, Commissioner Martin Callinan surprised the government by announcing he would quit and, at age 60, retire on a full state pension. Some government ministers had called on Callinan to apologize for calling the actions of two police corruption whistleblowers "disgusting," a comment made two months ago to a parliamentary committee. He did not apologize.

Callinan, Ireland's senior law-enforcement officer since 2010, previously denied that his force was responsible for the suspected bugging of telephones inside an independent agency that investigates complaints against the police force.

Its key active investigation involves alleged manipulation of the police's system for imposing penalties on law-breaking drivers. Two whistleblowers — one a retired officer, the other a serving sergeant — have accused fellow officers of helping celebrities, politicians and friends to make their traffic tickets disappear in a systematic policy of fraud.