Belfast Telegraph

Less than half of Gardai have signed up to code of ethics

Drew Harris told the meeting that just 48% of the 12,000 gardai who have received training on the Code of Ethics had not yet signed the code.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

Less than half of Gardai have signed up to the force’s code of ethics, the Garda Comissioner has confirmed.

The code of ethics was written by the Policing Authority for the organisation over two years ago, after a number of major scandals and an audit of the culture within the force flagged serious concerns.

The code sets out nine standards of conduct and commitments for every rank and grade – including civilians, reserve Gardai and sworn members.

Members are expected to sign up to uphold the law, behave with honesty and integrity, respect, privacy, transparency and speak up when they see wrongdoing.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told a public meeting with the Policing Authority board on Thursday that 48% of the 12,000 gardai who have received training on the code of ethics had not yet signed the code.

“I’ve made it clear it’s entirely unacceptable,” Mr Harris told the meeting.

“Whatever concerns there might have been in the initial implementation have long been dealt with, and we have provided training and necessary intervention.

“If you want to progress anywhere in the organisation, you have to sign up to the code of ethics.

“It is disappointing, but I have written already, we’ve done a video, and I would look to associations for leadership as well, they too have a responsibility.”

Mr Harris said the lack of uptake was at odds with what he has observed in many stations, but he looks to the PwC audit for the reasons behind the lack of uptake.

The force had undergone a number of scandals in previous years including false breath test figures, missing homicide data, issues with the finances at Templemore training college and the Disclosures Tribunal regarding the treatment of whistleblowers.

Mr Harris says it is clear that this had an effect on rank and file officers’ trust in the senior administration.

“People didn’t really identify with the larger organisation, they viewed it with some suspicion,” he said.

“I think it’s against that backdrop and that period in which the Gardai had been through contentious issues and coverage in the media, that loosened the connection between people and the larger organisation.

“The challenge is trying to break that, and have people identify a little less with their close colleagues and more with what the organisation is trying to do.

“The cynicism that saps away enthusiasm is a concern, people have various reasons for not signing, and we’ve tried to address those, with some success.

“I’d be concerned about the manner in which any probationer Gardai is mentored when they’re first sent out, and wary of that cynicism they could be exposed to.

“Those are important years in formulating an individual’s career.

“When I go out to stations mostly unannounced, I’m always taken by the quality of people,” Mr Harris added.

“I can’t understand how 50% of these people haven’t signed the code of ethics.

“More analysis may help, but it does hit oddly with my own personal experience with the people.”

Mr Harris, the former deputy chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), took up the Garda top job in September 2018.

He was appointed in hopes of overhauling the force after An Garda Siochana had come under intense scrutiny in the years previous, and was labelled as in dire need of reform.

PA

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