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Garda hopefuls look to join PSNI

Over 1,000 people in the Republic, including garda reservists, have applied to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) since a recruitment embargo on the gardai came into effect.

In the last recruitment campaign to the PSNI, which closed in February, 1,004 out of a total of 8,984 applicants listed "home addresses in RoI", the PSNI press office said.

The trend is likely to continue because a new streamlined training regime was being introduced for new gardai just as the recruitment ban came in. Garda trainers have themselves yet to retrain, so this could further delay the next recruitment intake which Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he hoped to see take place later this year.

Gardai say they are expecting an overwhelming response to the next recruitment campaign. With take-home pay and allowances for relatively young gardai at around €40,000 a year, along with the guaranteed pension scheme, it is expected that thousands will apply for the next campaign.

Among those applying for jobs in the PSNI are members of the Garda Reserve who volunteered for unpaid police work in the hope that it would pave a way into the force. A number of these are applying to the PSNI because they are past the age limit for recruitment to the gardai of 35.

The PSNI does not have such a limit and decides on recruits on the basis of ability and fitness as opposed to age.

Garda sources say that some reservists are becoming frustrated at the lack of any advancement system, and many feel they are being confined to menial work.

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There were some cases bordering on harassment in the early stages after the Garda Representative Association came out strongly against the formation of the Reserve.

Sources say antipathy has died down, but confirm that duties that reservists perform are limited.

The reservists are not allowed to drive cars, make arrests, issue summonses, or use pepper sprays.

Gardai say that in many stations there appears to be confusion over what reservists can and cannot do and in many instances, they say, they are either left to sit in stations or in the back of squad cars.

Other stations take a more active approach and regularly place reservists on the beat, as was envisaged by the then - Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell when he introduced the Reserve in 2006.

So far about 700 people have volunteered for the unpaid work and about 600 are allocated to stations. Many joined with the idea of seeing what police work was like with a view to joining the regular force if they enjoyed the work.

Around 50 who had applied to join the regular force before joining the Reserve were accepted as regular members during the big recruitment drive up to 2007.

However, since then, it is understood, very few if any have been accepted into the ranks of the regular force.

The Garda Press Office said it did not have numbers available for the number of reservists who had applied to join the full-time ranks or had been recruited full time.

The last intake to the gardai is understood to have contained no reservists and had an unusually large number of recruits with family members already serving in the force.

Gardai say that though the reservist scheme is now four years old, it does not appear to be developing in ways that volunteer reservist schemes in other jurisdictions have.

In the UK, reservists, or 'special constables' who show commitment and ability are actively encouraged to join the full-time ranks.

The UK police also have a Police Community Support Officer scheme of salaried police officers who deal with day-to-day community policing. Many special constables join this, and those who show ability continue into the regular forces.

Irish Independent

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