Belfast Telegraph

PSNI exam cheats should be sacked, says Policing Board member

By Deborah McAleese

The disgraced student PSNI officers caught cheating in their police exams should have been sacked on the spot, a member of the Policing Board has said.

More than 50 trainee police officers have received written warnings and ordered to restart their training after they were caught sharing and memorising exam questions ahead of assessment. The revelations have caused massive embarrassment to the PSNI.

Chief Constable George Hamilton has been criticised by members of the Policing Board for his handling of the scandal. They claimed the sanctions imposed by the PSNI were "inadequate".

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

The scandal was uncovered following a complaint from a whistleblower just hours before a squad of student officers were due to graduate from the PSNI's training college at Garnerville last week. Just 20 members of the squad were allowed to graduate the following day. The other 18 have been ordered back to week one of training.

A second squad, due to graduate in July, was also caught up in the scandal with all but two of its members back-squadded to week one. In total, 54 officers were given a written warning and ordered to restart training.

During a special meeting of the Policing Board yesterday to discuss the scandal, board members told the Chief Constable that the sanctions imposed on the cheating officers were inadequate. Some members insisted that the students should have been dismissed from the recruitment process altogether.

Other board members criticised the decision to allow last week's graduation to proceed before a full investigation had been carried out.

"If there is evidence that someone has cheated then they should not be police officers," said Policing Board member Ross Hussey.

The UUP man added: "You join the police to be a law abiding member of society with integrity. If you have cheated in your examinations to become a police officer then you should not progress".

Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly said members consider this "to be a very serious matter which has caused reputational damage to the PSNI."

"The integrity of officers is not negotiable and public confidence in the PSNI relies on officers acting with the highest levels of professionalism in all that they do at all times," she added.

Mr Hamilton said that when he became aware of the cheating allegations he considered all the information available to him, "including the early and fulsome acceptance of responsibility by the students concerned, while acknowledging the negative impact their behaviour was likely to have on community confidence."

"I concluded that the student officers had, at best, demonstrated extremely poor judgment and their behaviour was a breach of the student officers' Code of Ethics. As Chief Constable I am deeply disappointed by the actions of those student officers who have acted in a way that is not in keeping with the standards I expect from aspiring police officers," he said.

The Chief Constable said the behaviour and ethical standards of those involved will be closely monitored.

"I stand by my own judgment on this matter and fully appreciate the views and concerns expressed by the Policing Board."

A review of the examination process within the police training college will be undertaken.

Belfast Telegraph

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