Police 'deliberately fail test' to avoid tactical unit duty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 March, 1998, 12:00am

POLICE officers are deliberately failing medical exams to avoid being drafted into the Police Tactical Unit (PTU), sources have revealed.

Medical screening for officers selected for the PTU is now under review after hundreds of officers failed fitness tests.

A total of 523 officers did not pass the exams conducted by Anderson and Partners last year, up from 477 in 1996, at a cost to taxpayers of about $1.5 million.

The increasing failure rate has caused alarm at regional headquarters, amid concern some failed deliberately.

'The number of failures is considered too high as only about 2,000 officers are trained every year,' one source said. 'Many officers are cheating the tests to avoid PTU. Some junior officers think the training is a form of punishment.' It is understood some officers cheat by submitting false information, including supplying urine samples of unfit individuals instead of their own. However, some tests - such as giving blood - require them to attend in person.

Recruits might fail the medical if they suffered illnesses including asthma or skin allergies. A source said: 'If an officer is allergic to mosquito repellent, he may be exempted from the need to lie in the bushes for hours for anti-illegal immigrant ambushes.' Deputy Commandant of the PTU, Senior Superintendent Blake Hancock, told the Sunday Morning Post the screening procedure was being reviewed.

'Changes and improvements to medical screening are being considered to try to make it as accurate as possible,' Mr Hancock said.

He admitted some officers were not keen on joining the unit. He said more sergeants, who tended to be older, failed than junior officers.

'The test relies a lot on what the recruits tell the doctor about their family background, their own health and previous operations.

'If people want to [cheat], it's difficult for the medical community to find out. It's very much up to the discretion of the officers,' he said.

The test review was also aimed at ensuring the basic health of officers coming to the PTU was acceptable, Mr Hancock said.

Superintendent Wong Wing-kei, 39, died during training at the unit's school in Fanling last month. Two more officers collapsed and were injured the following week.

The 12-week PTU course includes physical work, internal security drills and weapons and tactical training.

Best known for their blue berets, PTU officers form 12 companies of 170 officers each, though the unit will be scaled back to eight companies this year.

About 2,200 officers are required each year to perform 12 months of PTU duties before going back to their regular units, though they may be called into the unit more than once in their career.