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PSNI recruitment freeze during exam cheating probe

By Deborah McAleese

Published 02/09/2016

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton at yesterday’s Policing Board meeting
PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton at yesterday’s Policing Board meeting
Board member Gerry Kelly
Board member Nichola Mallon

Police recruitment has been suspended until at least December to allow for a probe into cheating at the PSNI training college.

Chief Constable George Hamilton told the Policing Board yesterday that three planned intakes of student officers have been frozen until the completion of an independent review of the examination process and the culture within the policing college at Garnerville.

The review was ordered after the Belfast Telegraph revealed in June that 54 student officers had been caught cheating in their police examinations and ordered to restart training. Test questions were shared among students ahead of assessment.

Planned intakes of new student officers this month, as well as October and November have been put on hold. A provisional date in December has been set aside for the next intake.

Mr Hamilton told the Policing Board he acknowledged that there was a practice within the Police College earlier this year "that gave us some cause for concern".

He said that some students "went a step too far" when they attempted to memorise exam questions so they could share them with colleagues who had to resit the tests.

"Some would say that was good team work. That to me doesn't hold any water," Mr Hamilton added. Student officers caught up in the cheating scandal were ordered back to week one of training and issued with written warnings under the student officer misconduct procedures.

Some members of the Policing Board had criticised the sanctions for being "too lenient". Mr Hamilton told board members at yesterday's public meeting that the recruits involved had "expressed regret."

He said a five-week review was being carried out by the head of police training in Scotland and that the report would be presented to the board by the end of the month.

"The review is to look at the validity of the exam process, content of the course and the culture within the college. We have taken the decision not to bring further student officers into the college until we get the outcome of the review."

The Chief Constable insisted that he had "every confidence in the quality of people we are recruiting, assessing and graduating." "That's not blind wishful thinking, but what I've seen," he said. The cheating scandal was uncovered following a complaint from a whistleblower just hours before a squad of student officers were due to graduate from the training college.

The PSNI training which 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.

Belfast Telegraph

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