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'A huge own goal': Why rank-and-file gardaí are refusing to sign the code of ethics

The GRA said the organisation is not delivering on its commitment to vital training for members.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

RANK-AND-FILE members of An Garda Síochána are still refusing to sign the code of ethics written by the Policing Authority for the organisation.

The authority was previously informed by garda management that less than 40% of the force had signed up to the code, which includes a duty to uphold the law, honesty and integrity, respect, privacy, transparency and “speaking up” about wrongdoing within the force.

At last month’s meeting authority member Patrick Costello said he was disappointed to hear that some members were not signing after they had completed training on the code.

Assistant Commissioner for the Dublin Metropolitan Region Pat Leahy said management knows who has and hasn’t signed and that part of the problem was “a couple of technical issues”.

“I’ve no doubt at the end of it we are going to have a cohort of people who have not signed and we will have engaged with them. There’s a very different conversation we’re going to have to have with them at that stage,” he said.

Leahy said management has engaged with the representative associations on this issue, and told authority members it would be “a huge own goal” if they can not get this over the line.

Acting Commissioner Donall Ó Cúaláin also said at this meeting that he was open to hearing the concerns of gardaí in relation to the code. Authority chair Josephine Feehily reminded senior gardaí that she wanted it to be made clear to rank-and-file members that they could not be promoted if they do not sign the code.

According to the Garda Representative Association (GRA), the problem  centres around general training deficiencies, which gardaí believe will hinder their ability to live up to everything promised by the code.

Director of communications John O’Keeffe said it was not good enough to simply have gardaí sign up to the standards, the organisation “must also be seen to make a commitment to observance”.

“We feel that the process thus far has failed in that regard. Our members are being asked to declare adherence, yet the organisation itself is not delivering on its corresponding commitment to our membership – particularly in the area of training,” he said.

For example, in November last year the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 was enacted. This implementation of this legislation requires our members to have intimate knowledge of its content. Still they have no specific training in this important piece of legislation.
Last year also saw the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2017 which at Section 3 provides for the detention of intoxicated persons. There has been no CPD (continuing professional development) in respect of this provision, which poses risks to both our members and An Garda Síochána.

O’Keeffe highlighted a number of other areas which he said are in “urgent need of an update to training”, including:

  • Risk assessment
  • Rousing checks (on prisoners)
  • First aid
  • Restraint risks
  • Custody handover
  • Treatment of intoxicated prisoners.

“Ethics come with professionalism and as such there is an onus on An Garda Síochána as a responsible employer to provide adequate, continuous and up to date professional development, training, information, equipment, facilities and employee assistance to a minimum standard, such that all our members may be as effective as possible and reach their full career potential,” he explained.

“In the absence of organisational support to achieve professional competency, the Code places an unfair burden on the individual member.”

O’Keeffe said the GRA and its members have no issue with the promotion of ethical behaviour.

“Indeed the overwhelming majority of those people entering An Garda Síochána are naturally predisposed in this regard. Ethical behaviour is at the heart of policing and the work these men and women undertake everyday on all our behalves.”

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