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Wednesday 7 June 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# let's be cops
Inside Ireland's Police Academy: Here's what the new batch of Garda recruits will be facing...
The first new Garda recruits in five years are about to start in Templemore – and college top brass have high hopes for “the cream of the crop”.


The Garda College

24,000 PEOPLE APPLIED, but only a few have been chosen….

Just 100, in fact.

It’s been a tough battle to get here: after an initial online test to whittle down the numbers, the successful garda hopefuls then had to make it through a series of intensive interviews.

They’ll arrive at the famed Garda Training College in Templemore at the start of next month with their bags packed to start 8 months of training in areas like community policing, crime and incident policing, professional competence, public safety, and self defence…

There’s been a complete overhaul of the course since the last intake of garda recruits five years ago, senior officers were keen to point out — as they hosted a media day at the College earlier.

Hours of lectures and classroom-based sessions have been replaced with a new programme of ‘problem solving’ scenarios — to put it simply, students will learn by doing, rather than having to absorb endless notes.

The new, 2-year BA in Applied Policing is accrediting by the University of Limerick. Classes will be small, and students will take responsibility for their own learning, according to the College’s head of training, Chief Superintendent Anne Marie McMahon.

“They have to research, they have to assess the information they have, they have to make decisions and they have to justify those decisions.

“We are getting them into the practice of really critically thinking about what they are doing and understanding the importance of considering all the aspects of the case, researching the law in relation to it — and taking notes, and being able to justify that at a later stage.”

Head of Training and Development, Chief Superintendent Anne Marie McMahon

McMahon believes the new approach will help bridge the gap between the classroom and real-life policing.

The new recruits will receive full-board accommodation for the next 8 months: breakfast, lunch and dinner each day — and they’ll have classes from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

Those that make it will be sent out to stations as fully sworn officers next April, but they won’t receive their degrees until the following spring (and they’ll still officially be ‘on probation’ for a few months after that).

Once out on duty, they’ll go through another three distinct phases of training, known as the ‘three As’: ‘assisting’, ‘assisted’ and ‘autonomous’.

“Once they arrive at the stations they will be assisting a tutor guard for 17 weeks,” McMahon explains.

“The following 17 weeks they will be assisted by the tutor guard. The assistant guard will be taking the lead for the following 17 weeks, and they will be working autonomously.

“When they leave here next April they will have their Garda powers — however, their training continues, so it’s training blended with operational experience.”

Welcome to Police Academy… The nation’s media attempt to look studious, in front of Superintendent Pat McCabe.

Sergeant Kieran Ruane talks reporters through the ‘Hydra’ crime training system, where officers are given simulated scenarios to deal with, to test their decision-making skills.

Of course, the corridors of the Garda College haven’t been completely empty in the last few years: in addition to training new recruits, shorter advanced courses for qualified officers take place year-round.

This morning, local units were in the gym practising their baton training, while officers from all over the country were at the site for a course on the force’s Child Rescue Alert system.

‘Red Man’ baton-training.

Driving training takes place at the College too… Want to qualify to drive a squad car (sirens and all)? That’s not something that’s dealt with on the initial course — gardaí are sent back from their stations to do something called a CBD (competency based driving) course, the higher grades of which qualify them for service with specialised units like the emergency response unit, and the ministerial driving pool.

Hopes are high for the new batch of students — given the number of applicants, and the low number of qualifying candidates (compared to previous years), Garda top brass are expecting them to be more than up to the task.

“This first 100 we have are the cream of the crop,” says McMahon.

“I would be hopeful they would all get through.”

All photos: Jenny Russell

Think a staffer would make a good garda? (Hint: see above).

We were put through rigours of the ‘fitness competency test’ by some (frankly overenthusiastic) Garda trainers this morning. You can read how we got on when we’ve got enough breath back to write an article. Maybe tomorrow morning.

Read: 296 garda retirements in 2013 and 100 station closures

Read: 20,000 people apply for jobs in An Garda Síochana

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