Untrained gardaí on the road

Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 00:00

The number of officers driving Garda vehicles without having completed a specialist training course has risen to an estimated 4,000, or almost a third of the force.

Gardaí are required to complete a specialist driving course before being allowed to drive in the line of duty.

However, in recent years this requirement has been circumvented by the practice of allowing gardaí who have not yet received the required basic training to drive patrol cars once they have the written permission of a chief superintendent, a system referred to as “chief’s permission”.

Gardaí driving under chief’s permission hold a full driving licence.

The system was initially conceived as a short-term measure to accommodate training delays.

However, the number of officers operating under “chief’s permission” has almost doubled since 2006, when 2,013 gardaí were driving under this authority.

The system has come in for criticism from the Garda Inspectorate. In a 2008 report it described the practice as “a serious safety issue for police officers and the public”, and called for the practice to be eliminated by the end of 2009.

However, when the inspectorate returned to the issue in May this year, it found the target had been missed.

Following the inspectorate report, the Garda developed a competency-based driving programme. It has five levels, the first of which is an assessment of the driver’s abilities.

The second level is basic Garda driver training; level three is pursuit training; level four is advance pursuit training for specialist units such as the emergency response unit. Driving instructors are required to have attained level five.

The Garda has said it could take up to four years for all the untrained gardaí to be trained.

In its response to the inspectorate, the Garda notes that an accelerated delivery of training programmes could result in “operations ineffectiveness” and notes that the “financial and economic climate has changed dramatically since 2008”, when the training programme was developed.

The Garda plans to train 1,100 drivers a year over the next three years.

DAVID LABANYI