Police relax training programme

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 March, 1998, 12:00am

PHYSICAL training at the Police Tactical Unit has been scaled back following the death of a superintendent and several collapses and injuries, according to trainees.

The force began a review of its training programme after Superintendent Wong Wing-kei, 39, collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack during a team-building session on February 21.

Two constables aged 20 and 22 also fainted, one receiving an injury, the following week.

The intensity of physical training at the Fanling unit is understood to have been substantially cut, and recruits are now given only moderately difficult tasks, especially for team-building sessions.

One source said changes included boosting team numbers from eight to 40 for challenges such as lifting heavy objects, including tree trunks, buckets of water or weights, and moving them up and down hills.

Coaches have begun checking whether recruits are on medication before starting physically demanding work, and warning them to speak up if they find instructions difficult to follow.

They are now allowed two to three minutes' rest between rounds of circuit training - which includes weight-lifting, press-ups, sit-ups and squat thrusts - and the number of rounds has been cut by one-third.

'Now they can have time to drink water between rounds. It will reduce the chance of fainting due to dehydration,' said the source, who was at the camp when Wong died last month.

A police spokesman refused to comment on the scaling-down of the three-month training programmes, saying it was inappropriate to do so until the review was complete.

She could give no date for its completion.

The military-style training unit, responsible for the maintenance of public order in times of violent demonstration, takes in 170 police officers from various districts every 12 weeks.

Its programme has been deemed too harsh by several whose normal duties are district-based and who only take part in a day of light physical training every three months.

'One-quarter of the police in the programme have experienced injuries,' said one.

Ousted legislator James To Kun-sun said it was acceptable to adopt milder training to keep pace with the police's need for physical strength.

'Hong Kong is not in a state of crisis,' he said. 'It's unlikely that there will be a curfew.'