The Hong Kong Police Force plans to hire about 1,000 constables and 200 inspectors as part of its annual recruitment drive. A career as a police officer offers a challenging and rewarding livelihood. During the next three weeks, Career Post will look at the activities of the Search Unit, the Drink Driving Unit and the Police Tactical Unit (PTU), three of the many specialist groups which operate within the force. The Search Unit is a low- profile group of 43 teams which seldom makes headlines but is vital to ensuring the safety of Hong Kong's citizens and its many high-profile visitors. When a distinguished person such as a foreign prime minister or a senior official is visiting Hong Kong or a large event such as the handover is taking place, the security wing of the Government enlists the assistance of the Search Unit. It is a voluntary group within the force made up of teams consisting of one sergeant and eight constables. When their services are needed, members withdraw from regular policing duties to carry out their search activities. Crime Inspector Simon Cheung Wing-kan said the unit's typical duties involved search defences in the area of a venue where a VIP would be speaking and in the hotel where he would be staying. 'Mainly we are looking for bombs in our defensive searches, IEDs [implosive explosive devices]. 'We are also looking for hidden weapons, pistols, guns and knives. 'Sometimes we may also concentrate on sensitive objects like a banner which may make a guest feel uncomfortable,' he said. During the handover, the Search Unit deployed 20 teams to search HMS Tamar, site of the British handover ceremony. Part of its duties included screening 1,000 journalists, 2,000 performers and 4,000 guests by using metal detectors and X-ray machines. The Search Unit plans to create another 15 squads this year and is recruiting officers and inspectors to replace former members who have left the team. Successful applicants receive three weeks of training in which time they learn how to conduct systematic searches of people, motor vehicles, buildings and open areas. Some trainees will also be taught high-rise roof-top search procedures and how to use breathing apparatus for searching confined spaces. Inspectors and above applying to join the Search Unit receive training in operation planning and may have the opportunity to travel abroad for additional training with the British army. Another major function of the Search Unit is to assist groups such as the Crime Unit or the Narcotics Bureau in looking for evidence. Should a suspect give information about where some arms have been hidden, the unit will be deployed to recover them. 'If some people think the Search Unit is an easy opportunity to get away from their normal jobs, then they better not apply,' Inspector Cheung said. 'This job involves a lot of long hours, sometimes overnight with search operations of drainage and air-duct systems, kitchens and garbage.' Applicants for the Hong Kong Police Force must have been permanent residents of the SAR for at least seven years, read and write Chinese and speak fluent Cantonese. Male applicants must be a minimum 163 centimetres in height and at least 50 kilograms in weight. Females must be at least 152 cm tall and weigh at least 42 kg. Spectacles are acceptable subject to an eyesight test. All applicants have to undergo a physical fitness test. Constables must have a minimum Form 5 education or equivalent. Their basic starting salary is $14,240 per month. At the top of the scale, constables with five passes in the HKCEE (including English) receive $15,120. Inspectors with Form 5 education, with five passes including English Syllabus B, start at a salary of $26,745, while university graduates receive $30,610. Officers receive a wide range of benefits including full medical and subsidised dental coverage for themselves and their immediate family. Constables with less than 10 years on the force get 22 days annual leave; inspectors get 31 days. For more information, visit the police recruitment centres in Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui or Queensway. The centres are open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. The telephone hotline is 2866 0222.