Aristides Lucau couldn't have known what was ahead of him when he came to Ireland from his native Angola as a boy but on Thursday he graduated with the class of 2022 from the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary.
Having already cut his teeth with a stint at Tallaght Garda station, west Dublin, he will soon be policing the streets of Rathfarnham in the south of the city.
The 31-year-old is among a small, but growing, number of black Garda members and told The Irish Times he was looking forward to applying himself as a sworn member now that his training is done.
"It was something I was always interested in doing," he said of opting for a career in policing. "I wasn't sure if I could do it here but I watched a couple of videos on YouTube – all the different guards, trainees and their experiences – and that's what inspired me to go forward and try it."
He believes he will “bring something new to the table” given his language skills as he speaks English, Portuguese, French and Spanish. “I’m still learning a few more as I go,” he explained.
“While I was in my training station [in Tallaght] I got to work with ‘com pol’ [community policing] for a while, engaging with the community. So I think that’s an area I want to go back to,” he said, acknowledging it was “a long way” from Angola to Templemore.
Garda Lucau, who came to Ireland aged nine years – "it was a bit of a culture shock", grew up in Co Kildare and has joined the Garda after working in the engineering and IT sectors in his 20s. He said the public's response to him, as a black man in the Garda uniform, had been very positive so far.
“I’ve had a few people come up to me and say they were happy to see me in the uniform - people from my community and others not from my community - to see a fresh look to the guards. Overall, I’ve had a very positive experience in Ireland.”
Some 102 new Garda members were attested at the Garda College on Thursday: 64 men and 38 women. Sixteen of the new members were born outside the Republic, including in New Zealand, Angola, Croatia, Poland, England, Northern Ireland, Guatemala, Saudi Arabia and Scotland.
From September there will be a class of 200 recruits entering the Garda College every 11 weeks until September 2023, with recruitment numbers for 2024 to be set at that point, as part of the process of increasing Garda numbers above 15,000.