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Police training review blasts 'pseudo military' regime within college

By Luke Barnes

Published 08/11/2016

New PSNI recruits on parade in Belfast
New PSNI recruits on parade in Belfast

Police recruits are forced to endure a "pseudo-militaristic" training regime at Garnerville college, according to an internal PSNI report.

It describes how students routinely march to classes, perform press-ups in their uniform and take part in "show parades" as a form of punishment.

The review team said there were many examples of good practice, but it was "significantly concerned by certain elements of the prevailing culture".

The review, which was obtained by the BBC, was ordered after a cheating scandal in August led to 54 student officers having to repeat the training programme.

It says the college failed to provide a safe and supportive learning environment.

It adds that drill practice and show parades were punishments applied for what it calls "unreasonably high standards", like water drips in sinks or dust on the floors.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, who recently took charge of Garnerville, admitted that there had been failings.

He said: "We have, I think, in an attempt to raise our standards, lost our balance.

"That which was designed to make people pay attention to detail has lost its balance and become unacceptable.

"We have acknowledged that within the report and we have a plan to deal with those things going forward and make the situation better for the future."

The report added that there was a "fear of failure" within the college, and that students were led to believe that a single mistake could cost them their job.

It also criticised the long working hours, with students regularly having 16-hour days.

However, the report does say that the current course content is "considered fit for purpose".

It made 50 recommendations for change, including the way the students are tested and assessed.

The PSNI has accepted all of them, and the findings have been discussed with the Policing Board.

Officers have ordered an immediate end to students marching to and from classes, as well as the use of "show parades" as punishments.

Groups of students will now also be referred to as "classes" and not "squads".

A series of measures have also been introduced to ensure that there can be no repeat of the cheating scandal.

A spokesperson for the Policing Board said the findings were of "serious concern".

They said: "The board agrees that there is now the opportunity to really invest in the college, make the changes necessary to redress the issues uncovered and achieve this vision."

All training at Garnerville was suspended after news of the scandal broke, and more than 200 new recruits have had their training delayed.

The PSNI hopes their training can now resume and plans a new recruitment drive for January.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said the Policing Board and PSNI should "stop dithering" and begin a new recruitment campaign immediately.

He said it was "imperative that recruitment commences as soon as possible" as 30 officers were leaving the PSNI each month.

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