The Garda Training College engaged with the Law School at the University of Limerick in accrediting the programme. This is novel for a criminal justice agency to engage in collaboration of this kind, though it is very much in keeping with national strategy for higher education which calls on universities to engage more widely with business, industry, training colleges and communities.
In essence, it has allowed a ‘community of scholars’ and a ‘community of practice’ to pool resources so as to scaffold the core competencies and core functions of policing (as identified by the gardaí) in an innovative curriculum design which is supported by strict academic regulations.
Thirdly the programme itself is very transparent. In accrediting the programme with the University of Limerick, the gardaí have opened the training programme up to continuous scrutiny from the governance structure of the university including accreditation visits, examination boards, quality assurance boards, external examiner reports, academic regulations, and reviews.
A governance structure of this kind demands constant and meaningful dialectical engagement between the university and the training college on issues such as fairness of procedures, academic integrity, and the extent to which learning outcomes for the programme are being achieved.
Finally, the new training embeds human rights and ethical policing as a core programme outcome. It ensures that ethics, human rights, values and community are considered in the management of all policing situations, and it seeks to provide a continuity of learning around these issues from problem based learning in the Garda College to work based learning in the Garda divisions.
The gardaí are given the responsibility by the State of protecting the rights of citizens and enforcing the law of the country. Their functions and competencies should be based on democratic values that seeks to ensure fair and impartial treatment for all of its citizens.
This new programme represents another layer in what has been a long history of police training in Ireland. It is supported by a very high standard of recruit; almost 24,000 candidates applied for the first 100 places.
The clear ambition and vision is that Ireland can be pioneering again in respect of its police training.
Professor Shane Kilcommins and Dr Eimear Spain lecture in the Law School at the University of Limerick