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Police exam cheats scandal may lead to recruitment freeze

By Deborah McAleese

Published 08/07/2016

Chief Constable George Hamilton at the monthly Police Board meeting yesterday
Chief Constable George Hamilton at the monthly Police Board meeting yesterday
The Belfast Telegraph front page from June 14

The PSNI may have to freeze recruitment to the force as the controversy over an exam cheating scandal deepens.

Chief Constable George Hamilton revealed that he is considering stalling the current recruitment process while a thorough review is carried out at the Garnerville policing college.

Last month 54 student officers were caught cheating in their police examinations and ordered to restart training. Test questions were shared among students ahead of assessment.

The scandal was uncovered following a complaint from a whistle-blower just hours before a squad of student officers were due to graduate from the training college.

Mr Hamilton told the Policing Board yesterday that a wide review of the examinations process at the college is to be carried out and an independent assessor will be appointed to assist.

"We as a team have considered pausing recruitment. We may well do that... I'm respectful of the community confidence issues around this and the Policing Board's view that we should at least consider this," the Chief Constable said.

He added that a judgment would be made after also taking into consideration the "operational consequences".

"Allegations of impropriety by some student officers within the Police College left members of the PSNI Service Executive Team deeply disappointed and resulted in disciplinary consequences for those concerned," Mr Hamilton said.

He added: "All involved received written warnings under the student officer misconduct procedures and a clear explanation from an Assistant Chief Constable regarding the need for unquestionable integrity and high ethical standards for those who aspire to hold the office of constable.

"A review of processes at the Police College is ongoing and updates will be provided in relation to this aspect in due course.

"The public rightly expects the high standards from their police officers and additional scrutiny is being applied to ensure that these standards are met."

In the wake of the revelations Mr Hamilton was criticised by Policing Board members for his handling of the situation.

They claimed sanctions imposed by the PSNI were "inadequate".

Mr Hamilton insisted that he had acted in "good faith and with integrity" and that his actions "have been proportionate and appropriate in all the circumstances".

However some board members believed the cheating students should have been sacked on the spot.

The PSNI training the students were caught cheating in is accredited by the Ulster University, which means student officers are both students of the Police College and the UU.

Although the university is very strict on cheating, disciplinary action in this case was left up to the PSNI.

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