Policing Board’s ‘serious concern’ over regime at Garnerville college

Police college graduates march past the PSNI flag during a graduation ceremony at Garnerville near Holywood
Police college graduates march past the PSNI flag during a graduation ceremony at Garnerville near Holywood

A finding that the PSNI training regime at Garnerville is “not conducive to a safe and professional learning environment” is a cause for serious concern the NI Policing Board has said.

An independent review led by Chief Superintendent Alan Gibson from Police Scotland found that mistakes or poor performance could result in student officers doing press-ups in uniform – or having to run in their civilian business attire.

Following publication of the criticisms contained in the report, the board said it will meet the chief constable this Thursday to discuss the implementation of the report’s 50 recommendations.

The PSNI has accepted all 50.

In a statement released on Monday, the board said: “The review reveals that the organisational and behavioural standards that the board expects from all the staff of the PSNI are not being consistently met in the college.

“Findings that some activities and the pervading culture in the college are not conducive to a safe and professional learning environment is a matter of most serious concern to all of the board members and that is why following receipt of the report, significant time has been invested by the board in considering plans for moving forward.”

The report, which was obtained by the BBC, described the culture within the training centre as “more associated with a pseudo-militaristic training environment”.

It also reveals that a number of disciplinary investigations are under way into allegations of “potential individual misconduct”.

“Student officers and trainers have detailed how the first day of the residential process can involve students performing press-ups in uniform and running distances in business attire,” the report added.

It notes that military-style marching is incorporated throughout the curriculum, and that punishments include military-style ‘show parades’ where student officers will have kit inspections after normal working hours.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said the report was “hard reading” for him and that some of the incidents reported “shouldn’t have happened”.

He said a recruitment freeze at a time when more officers left the organisation than expected led to a degree of haste in putting together a training package.

“Doing things quickly, and trying to address previous failings in standards. I think we raised the standards but I also think we lost our balance around that. I didn’t know all of it was going on, but I had seen pieces that made me uncomfortable.

“This [report] is hard hitting. It is hard reading for me but we have to make it better and that is what I intend to do,” he told the Nolan Show on Monday.

ACC Todd said there must be “clear boundaries” as to what training methods are, and are not, acceptable.

Asked specifically about complaints that recruits were made to run in their suits as a punishment, the senior officer said: “I am not going to defend that – it shouldn’t have happened in my view.”