Holding back the tiers

“Appointed” or “disappointed” are often the phrases heard after a promotion list is published in An Garda Síochána writes Darren Martin

Promotions in An Garda Síochána are governed by the Garda Síochána (Promotion) Regulations 2006 as provided for by the Garda Síochána Act 2005. A person joining An Garda Síochána must have completed probation, usually two years after attestation, and passed the Sergeants’ exam to apply for promotion to sergeant, or possibly longer allowing for competition timescales. If successful, depending on the date of their promotion, the passing of the Inspectors’ exam and the commencement of an Inspectors’ competition, they can apply for promotion to inspector after they have completed two years as a sergeant. Once promoted an Inspector must wait a further two years before they can apply for promotion to the rank of Superintendent.

As it stands, a person in An Garda Síochána must serve a theoretical minimum of seven years in the organisation before being able to put themselves forward for promotion to Superintendent. In reality, this may take considerably more years of service before the opportunity presents itself to members. The average service for promoted Superintendents in An Garda Síochána is in excess of 20 years. There is no fast track system to the officer ranks available to members.

The UK has for many years now allowed direct entry or fast track into their police forces at Inspector rank. This is provided for under the UK Police Regulations and the Police (Promotion) Regulations 1996. This process allows persons who have the required skills, experience and qualifications to apply to be assessed as to their ability to become the future leaders in different police forces in the UK.

The PSNI invites persons of exceptional abilities to apply for the fast track programmes to allow for entry at Inspector rank. The programme allows Constables, including Constables on probation, to apply once they achieve all learning standards within the initial police learning and development programme (IPLDP). The objective of the programme is to attract talented serving Constables from within the police service and equip them as future leaders within the police forces. It is not a requirement that the applicant hold a third level- qualification but they must meet the other requirements first.

Section 52(1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides that the government may appoint members of the PSNI to such ranks not below the rank of Superintendent. It also provides mutual recognition of the experience and qualifications that would be required for appointment to the equivalent rank in the PSNI. The promotion to Superintendent or the higher ranks in An Garda Síochána is governed under the Garda Síochána (Appointments to the Ranks of Assistant Commissioner, Chief Superintendent and Superintendent) Regulations 2016. These regulations allow a member of An Garda Síochána or the PSNI to apply for positions up to and including assistant Commissioner once they are a serving Inspector for at least two years at that rank.

In theory, the regulations provide the possibility for a PSNI Inspector with two years-service to apply to become an assistant Commissioner in An Garda Síochána through open competition for An Garda Síochána members.

The opportunity to join An Garda Síochána is no longer restricted by a person’s age, gender or background. It remains an exciting career with much to offer those who choose to serve. Joining the Force was historically considered a job for life; yet in more recent times a number of highly qualified members have resigned from An Garda Síochána. Their reasons for leaving are varied and personal to all but a common view expressed by some is the lack of career progression or opportunity that exists in An Garda Síochána, with no recognition of their qualifications when being assessed for leadership or Supervisor positions.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the promotion regulations for senior ranks in An Garda Síochána has recognised the value and contribution PSNI officers can bring to An Garda Síochána with applicants from the PSNI applying and being successful in joining An Garda Síochána.

For now, An Garda Síochána still utilises a single line progression structure up to the rank of Inspector. From Inspector rank and above, promotion competitions are run by the Independent Policing Authority and it is open for an Inspector to apply for any rank above that up to and including assistant Commissioner. This creates an imbalance of opportunity where members of the PSNI can avail of a fast track system within the PSNI and apply to An Garda Síochána for promotion to a senior managerial rank, an avenue which is not available to members of An Garda Síochána. It is suggested that appointment to senior positions should be for the best and most suitable person to fill the role, rather than the best of a particular rank.

Darren Martin (BL, LLM, MSc, BCL, BA) is a serving member of  An Garda Síochána

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