Frontline supervisors have said there is a “severe lack of sergeants” to supervise 800 garda trainees due to be recruited next year.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said lack of supervision of new gardaí had been cited as a cause of police failings in the past.
AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham was commenting following the announcement by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald that 3,200 recruits would be needed over the next four years to satisfy the Government’s commitment to bring numbers to 15,000.
“An accelerated Garda training programme for new recruits is positive in theory,” said Ms Cunningham.
“However, the reality is what happens when those young gardaí arrive for operational duty at stations, there will be a severe lack of supervisors due to a lack of sergeants.”
Investigations by the Garda Inspectorate and inquiries into Garda failures in the Cavan/Monaghan district highlighted problems associated with large numbers of inexperienced gardaí and inadequate supervision by sergeants.
“We have already seen cases whereby supervision was cited as the cause of police failings,” said Ms Cunningham.
“Have we learned nothing? This accelerated recruitment approach will not work unless a simultaneous response to supervision is activated.”
The projected intake of roughly 800 a year represents an increase of 33% on the 600 being trained this year, a number which was thought to be the maximum capacity of the Garda Training College in Templemore.
Senior Garda sources said supervisory numbers will increase with the recruitment.
The Irish Examiner understands Garda bosses are “actively looking at” renting out space outside of Templemore College and appointing more training staff.
The Tánaiste said to reach the Programme for Government commitment of 15,000 gardaí, and taking into account retirements, some 3,200 new Garda members will need to be recruited over the next four years.
“It is essential that An Garda Síochána has the capacity to train large numbers without any diminution in the quality of its training programme, and to provide appropriate supervision and support to newly qualified gardaí to ensure that victims and the public are well served,” she said.
“I welcome the detailed planning process that the Commissioner and her team have in place to ensure the delivery of increased numbers of gardaí without any compromise on the quality of those recruited or the training programme.”
Ms Fitzgerald urged members of minority and new communities to apply.
The Garda Representative Association welcomed the recruitment.
“This is a vital step forward to restoring the force,” said GRA president Ciaran O’Neill.
However, he said the starting salary of €23,171 a year was too low and may not attract “the calibre required for a demanding job”.
He urged the government to restore Garda pay to an appropriate level for the “dangerous but essential work that our members undertake on a daily basis”.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she wanted people from “every part of Irish life” to apply.
She said that “more needs to be done” to increase the number of women in the force and the representation from different nationalities and backgrounds.
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