Apart from being a career which offers an exciting and challenging livelihood, a police officer's duties are varied because of the many specialty units within the Hong Kong Police Force. The Police Tactical Unit, or the PTU as it is more commonly known, is one such unit. Best known by the trademark blue beret, the PTU is an elite squad which is tactically trained to deal with riotous or chaotic situations. It consists of 12 companies each with 170 officers. In all, about 2,200 officers are required each year to perform 12 months of PTU duties before going back to their regular units. During their year in the PTU, constables spend three months training followed by three months field patrol detachment working at the border on anti-illegal immigrant (II) activities. They then have a month's duties on the Quick Reaction Force followed by a four-month attachment to a regional company. Sergeants and above also receive one month's cadre training prior to the constables' training. Grace Leung, the PTU's first female chief inspector, said the unit was open to the following categories: constables with a least a year's experience after passing out of the police training school; sergeants with at least 12 months in rank; inspectors with at least 18 months in rank; and chief inspectors and superintendents after promotion to that rank. She said the PTU training helped a constable's professional development as it provided sound preparation in overall operations. A constable was eligible for promotion to sergeant after four years. 'What we are looking for are young officers with one or more year's experience. After a year on the force, this is the time for them to learn more and the PTU is an ideal place to gain experience,' Chief Inspector Leung said. During the PTU's 16 weeks of training at Fanling, recruits learn and practise exercises in basic internal security, tactical training, crowd control, violent incident response and how to handle chaotic situations. Other activities include four weeks of simulated tactical training such as riot reaction and communication skills. They then have two weeks of field patrol training, learning how to deal with the activities of illegal immigrants (II). The training includes a strenuous daily fitness regime as recruits are required to do physical training involving swimming, running, gym work and covering an obstacle course. After completing PTU training, each company has three months of field patrol duties providing fence protection on the border aimed at stopping IIs. PTU teams patrol the border at Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To and Shau Tau Kok, working 24-hour shifts followed by two days off. Last year, 17,819 IIs were arrested in Hong Kong. After field patrol duties, PTU companies spend one month on the Quick Reaction Force working mainly in the New Territories northern region. PTU squads are also deployed on special operations such as a murder hunt in the mountains or a hillside search. Recently, the PTU has begun amalgamating its border patrol policing activities with its Quick Reaction Force to provide better security along the boundary. As a result, not all PTU teams perform field patrol duties. The changes will enable PTU companies to extend their present 20 weeks on regional attachment to 30 weeks. The remaining time of an officer's PTU attachment is spent in the regions when companies are posted to either Hong Kong Island, Kowloon East, Kowloon West, New Territories North or New Territories South. Companies give assistance and reinforcement to the regional uniformed branch officers carrying out such duties as crowd control management, anti-crime patrols, anti-II operations and normal beat patrol work involving identification checks in licensed establishments. 'For a lot of officers, they often consider their time on the PTU as one of the highlights of their policing career. It is an exciting job which is never boring because it is always changing. The PTU stresses the emphasis of teamwork which is invaluable in a police officer's career,' Chief Inspector Leung said. 'With their tactical training, they are much better officers and their services are invaluable when their help is needed.' The Hong Kong Police Force is planning to recruit about 1,000 constables and 200 inspectors as part of its annual recruitment drive. Information on the PTU or any of the activities of the force can be obtained from recruitment centres in Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui or Queensway. The centres are open Monday to Saturday from 10 am-6 pm. The telephone hotline is 2866 0222.