Hong Kong prison officers go through tough training regime to join elite response team

Members will escort high-risk inmates and deal with emergencies in prisons and will carry firearms like pepper ball launchers and rifles firing bean-bag rounds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 10:22pm

Thirty-five correctional services officers who received tactical and firearms training have been deployed to escort high-risk inmates and deal with emergencies in Hong Kong prisons.

Members of the regional response team will be equipped with weapons such as pepper ball launchers and rifles which fire bean-bag rounds.

But the department denied the special team – established in September – was a publicity stunt to improve the image of correctional staff or the result of worsening violence at detention facilities, but rather a continuing drive to professionalise their duties.

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The Correctional Services Department’s staff training institute now offers a professional certificate programme in safe and effective control tactics. It is the first of its kind for the city’s disciplined forces to be recognised by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications.

During 11 weeks of training, prison officers enhance their operational and tactical knowledge, as well as learn how to use firearms.

The 35 graduates were deployed to the three regional response teams in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and on Lantau.

Apart from emergencies, the teams are also responsible for routine tasks such as patrolling prisons and sharing their skills with colleagues in seminars.

Yau Ho-chun, who was among the first batch of officers to complete the programme, said there was a rigorous selection process for joining the team.

“The fitness requirement was much higher. The tests we had to take were about twice as tough as those for recruitment,” he said.

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Apart from specialised training, the force is also encouraging staff to enhance their academic qualifications.

Since 2008, over 250 officers have completed the advanced diploma in applied social sciences at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Professional and Continuing Education, with fees wholly paid for by the force.

Those who are ambitious can even study for a bachelor’s degree, with scholarships offered for officers with outstanding performance.

The department will recruit 50 officers and 300 assistant officers before year’s end.

The chief officer for recruit training, Leung Ka-lun, reminded aspirants to fully prepare themselves, especially for the fitness test which in the past screened out around 70 per cent of all applicants.