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Running in uniform, punishment for dripping taps and dust: PSNI 'military boot camp' regime exposed

Police address issues raised in damning report on Garnerville training college

Published 07/11/2016

Training has been suspended at Garnerville.
Training has been suspended at Garnerville.

The PSNI has said it will work to address issues raised in a damning report into standards at its Garnerville training college.

The BBC has obtained an internal review, carried out by Police Scotland, which described the college as a "military-style boot" camp.

It was ordered after the Belfast Telegraph revealed more than 50 trainee police officers were at the centre of a major exam cheating scandal that rocked the PSNI.

More:

PSNI paying nearly £500k to retrain recruits involved in cheating scandal  

PSNI recruitment freeze during exam cheating probe  

Another 24 trainee police officers caught cheating in Northern Ireland  

Student officers were ordered to repeat the 22-week programme and all training suspended. Some 200 new officers have had their training delayed due to the scandal.

The report described a fear of failure, with "an unhealthy leaning towards punitive discipline" in a "pseudo-militaristic" regime with students marching to and from classes.

Recruits were made to exercise in dress uniform and run long distances in "business attire". They were also punished for dripping taps or for dust found on floors. Some feared for their jobs for making one mistake during the training process.

It did find many good examples of good practice and the course considered "fit for purpose," the BBC reported.

However, report authors found the college failed to provide a safe and supported learning environment.

The report said the review team was "significantly concerned by certain elements of the prevailing culture".

During Stephen Nolan's Radio Ulster show, it was also revealed the Policing Board has not attended a passing out parade at the college since the cheating scandal was revealed.

More: I put my hands up and admit I failed PSNI test!

The report made 50 recommendations for change with the PSNI accepting all of them.

Police said all practices identified in the report have been ended and teaching overhauled.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, who recently took charge of the training college, said: "Following events in June 2016 where a number of students breached a confidentiality agreement linked to the examination process a Review of the Police College was commissioned by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton.

"It was led by an independent Project Lead, Chief Superintendent Alan Gibson, Head of Training at Police Scotland.

"The Review team evidenced many examples of good training practice and commitment from training staff in the Police College. However, there were areas identified for improvement and a number of the findings make uncomfortable reading.

"I welcome all of the findings and am totally committed to ensuring that we address the issues and move forward to support our Foundation Faculty training staff as they strive to deliver a challenging and constructive learning environment for all students.

"Our desire is to ensure that we train our officers to the highest standards and that they develop professionally and thrive personally during their time in the Police College.

"I have appointed a senior officer to lead an implementation team delivering against all of the recommendations and I am entirely confident that the majority of actions will be addressed within the next few months. Some have already been introduced with immediate effect."

"The Review includes 50 recommendations and sub-recommendations which I and the PSNI’s Service Executive Team fully accept.

"We have discussed the report and our implementation plan with the Northern Ireland Policing Board on a number of occasions and will meet with them again in the coming days. We are hoping to bring the next intake of student officers into the College early in 2017."

It's hoped training will resume with a new recruitment process opening in January.

The chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, called on the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Chief Constable to stop stalling on the recommencement of recruitment for the PSNI following on from a review of training.

He said: “Since recruitment was suspended in August, we have had no new recruits through the gates of the college.

"This has, in effect, resulted in 300 fewer officers being available to serve communities by the end of December 2016. Given that we were already 700 short of the peacetime requirement as recommended in Patten, it does not take a genius to work out the crisis we are sleepwalking into.”

The federation said, on average, 30 officers per month were leaving the service and, with no replacements being trained, the NIPB and PSNI are only storing up problems for the future.

"Officers are already presenting with unprecedented levels of stress and communities are noticing fewer officers on the ground. It is imperative that recruitment commences as soon as possible to address these issues," Mr Lindsay added.

"If the Board and the PSNI are serious about helping us to tackle the issue of officer stress and enhance policing for the entire community, then they should stop dithering and playing politics and commence recruitment immediately."

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