Garda body criticises ‘excessive’ bleep tests for recruits

Members’ group says tests for trainees and probationers are causing high stress levels

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has called for a review of the "excessive" bleep tests used by An Garda Síochána as part of its fitness training for recruits.

The bleep test, which sees participants do a series of 20m shuttle runs between two points within a specified period of time, forms part of the force’s overall fitness test for trainees and probationers, which also includes press-ups, sit-ups and push/pull strength tests.

It is understood that a garda was recently dismissed after failing the bleep test, while another 15 officers under probation were served with warnings after failing the test on two occasions.

The GRA said significant numbers of applicants seeking to join the force over the past two to three years had “fallen at the final hurdle by failing to meet the bleep test” and accused the Garda of taking a “zero tolerance approach” in its use of this form of testing.

The use of bleep testing is “excessive” and results in high stress levels among trainees because of the “real threat of dismissal hanging over them”, the GRA said.

Members on probation who fail the test can retake it a number of times, with most receiving six weeks to prepare, said a GRA spokesman. However, in most cases, if they continue to fail, it will be suggested that “they may not be suitable for a career in policing”.

The spokesman underlined that while it was not in the interests of the public to have gardaí who are not fit enough for the job, the association was concerned at the proportion of people failing the bleep test and nothing else.

"There are many other elements involved in the [fitness] test," the GRA spokesman said, adding that the bleep test was "more onerous" than those used in other countries and had been scrapped in Northern Ireland. There is also a question over whether the test is more difficult for women than men, he said.

Pass level

In the UK, the pass level for the police bleep test is 5.4 irrespective of age or gender, while each shuttle run is 15m long. In the Republic, male gardaí under 26 must score 8.8, while for female gardaí under 26 it’s 7.6. Each shuttle run is 20m long and different standards apply depending on age and gender, with pass scores varying from 5.4 to 8.8.

The GRA has called for a review of the bleep test along with the introduction of a structured occupational health and education programme, especially in respect of managing diet and exercise while on shift work.

The association said it fully supported the requirement for all new Garda trainees and probationers to have an appropriate level of fitness which they must maintain throughout their two years of probation and beyond.

However, it warned that the number of recruits failing the bleep test had become a serious problem, “not because these young people are not fit, but because the pass levels currently required in the bleep test are excessive”.

Garda recruits must be aged between 18 and 35 to join the force and must have secured at least five D3 grades at ordinary level in the Leaving Cert. Applicants must also have a “proven proficiency” in two languages, one of which must be English or Irish.