Gardai to be trained on driving patrol cars at speed
MORE than 3,000 gardai are to be taught to drive patrol cars at high speed for emergency responses.
Many already do so without special training.
The move is intended to eliminate the current practice where gardai are allowed to drive patrol cars without training, if they are given the go-ahead by a chief superintendent.
The system, known as "chief's permission", has been widely criticised by garda representative groups and others in the past, particularly after the deaths of members of the force in road collisions involving patrol vehicles.
The garda authorities had initially planned to end the practice by the end of 2009.
But the new training plan has been given a high priority status and a deadline, the first quarter of next year, has been set for its commencement.
The new target is to train 1,110 officers a year over the next three years, adding up to a total of 3,300, more than a quarter of the force.
However, senior garda officers pointed out last night that a proportion of those to be trained were not currently driving on "chief's permission".
A breakdown of the figures is not available. But in 2008 the Department of Justice said that 2,600 gardai had not completed the "required driver training course" for the force.
The Garda Inspectorate has recommended that, if necessary, an outside contractor should be brought in to provide the training and expedite the elimination of "chief's permission".
It also suggested that those availing of that system at the moment should undergo an abbreviated but effective driver training course.
Garda management has also decided that whenever recruitment to the force is allowed again by the Government, following an end to the current moratorium, new recruits will automatically undergo a special driving course as part of their core training programme.
An issue over recruits possessing a valid driving licence prior to employment in the force is still under consideration by the authorities within the context of an overall review of training and development.
A working group has been established to look at the suggestion and comprises representatives from the Garda College in Templemore, the garda human resources section at Phoenix Park HQ and the Department of Justice.
According to instructors with the specialist driving unit, an operational garda car "puts demands on a driver way above that of a domestic vehicle".
One instructor said: "The professional approach of gardai to their job, in terms of responding to a call, can compromise somebody if they are not trained properly."