FEMALE officers may be allowed into tough police tactical units. The move to give women better job opportunities would mean them being exposed to full anti-riot training, the firing of tear-gas canisters and use of high-powered firearms. A special sub-committee has been formed to examine participation in the Police Tactical Unit (PTU), now that a poll has been completed on arming women. Initial talks suggest either having a separate PTU squad for women or allowing integration. Female-only unit Tango Company was formed in 1992, partly to deal with potential crowd trouble for the visit of then-Philippine president Corazon Aquino. The 205-strong company has been retained but has never adopted a full internal security profile. PTU commandant Chief Superintendent Gus Cunningham said total integration appeared to be the only real option. 'What we really need first is a pool or reservoir of women who are carrying side arms before we can really progress further,' he said. 'It might be a bit further down the track, but my view is that we should be looking at full integration. 'This would mean if there are 12 per cent of females in any particular area, we should look to have this same percentage. 'Hopefully, we would be looking at having women platoon officers fully trained. In terms of fitness, we would look to have the standard sufficient for them to perform their role.' Coping with the PTU's firearms would be the most burdensome feature of training when women were accepted. The PTU weaponry includes the Remington 12-gauge shotgun, a Federal gun used for firing tear-gas canisters and an AR-15 armalite rifle. Tango Company commander Acting Senior Superintendent Mary Ip Ching-man, a member of the sub-committee, said many of her woman colleagues wanted more exciting job opportunities. Tango officers currently take part in Vietnamese return flights and crowd control, but are denied the full range of PTU activities. 'I don't know what stage we are at in terms of integration but all our girls are very active and keen,' she said. 'We are quite positive about any developments that would bring better opportunities for women.' Last week it was revealed in a police survey less than half of the force's approximately 3,000 women had indicated their willingness to be trained in firearms. But this was a huge increase on the 15 per cent polled in 1991. In the latest exercise, about 40 per cent of junior officers - many of them younger women - wanted to carry guns. This compares with 75 per cent of about 300 females above the rank of inspector. Force management believes the boosted response is due to an extensive consultation exercise which involved all ranks being asked on how the role of women should be expanded. Because of the move to offer more equality - and the impact of unemployment and the recession - recruitment applications from women have almost doubled in the past year. This is a big contrast with early 1994, before the decision was made to arm women officers, when applications had plummeted by almost 40 per cent.