The special skills learnt in PTU programmes can benefit the police in their personal and career development The Hong Kong Police Force has about 1,020 officers working in its Police Tactical Unit (PTU). Besides the PTU headquarters in Fanling, the unit is based in five regional units: New Territories North, New Territories South, Kowloon West, Kowloon East and Hong Kong Island. PTU officers are those members of the force who have been specially trained to deal with riots, but over the years have taken on other duties added to their list of responsibilities. The PTU was established in 1956 as an anti-riot unit, trained to deal with threats to internal security situations and natural disasters. PTU duties have since expanded to include daily, non-emergency situations, from street patrolling to crowd management. The public often gets to see PTU officers on duty for special occasions such as public rallies and fireworks displays. They are also sometimes seen outside the Legco building and at the racecourse on horse-racing days. Other times, they may be called on to assist in challenging, non-routine operations such as dealing with armed gangs. In the course of their career, police officers - be they constables, sergeants or inspectors - are nominated to join the PTU. They undergo a 12 or 16-week training course, together with a 65-week attachment to a regional unit. 'Given the opportunity, most police officers are happy and eager to join us,' says Martin Cadman, Chief Inspector of Police, Training, PTU. 'After the training and attachment, they are assigned to another station or role.' The training is conducted at the PTU training grounds in Fanling. 'It is a very different training to the one they received at the Police Training School [PTS], where they started out. The PTS includes basic, introductory riot training. What we offer here is a more advanced level of tactics and management in regard to riots,' Chief Inspector Cadman says. Officers of sergeant rank and above are given four-weeks of 'cadre training' on top of the 12-week 'company training' course. The four-week cadre training is designed to give frontline officers further command and leadership training, while developing their management skills. 'The training emphasises planning, communications and problem-solving skills. As inspectors, they deploy the troops, and as chief inspectors they deploy the unit. Real-life situations are always different from staged ones. We have to ensure they can manage both situations, and their teams, well.' The PTU officer trainees have to attend a series of classroom lectures, followed by a 12-week programme (when they are joined by the constables) that focuses on physical and tactical training. Areas covered include internal security structure knowledge, the handling of firearms and smoke weapons, shooting tactics/techniques, helicopter training, hostile crowd control tactics, rural area tactics training, high-rise cordon and sweep, and tactical approach to vehicle and armed suspects. The training also places strong emphasis on team work. 'The PTU trainees come together, stay together and work together. We work as a team rather than as individuals,' Chief Inspector Cadman says. 'There is a lot of physical training. For myself, I did enjoy the hard work. We picked up new skills, besides anti-riot techniques. The skills also benefit us in terms of personal and career development. It is very rewarding at the end.' Chief Inspector Cadman joined the police force in 1986, and has twice undergone PTU training. Working as a full-time trainer for the past four years, he is always busy preparing and updating the teaching materials. The job also calls for trips overseas. 'We visit police forces in other countries for benchmarking purposes and to enhance our understanding of the field. We also attend international conferences to learn about the latest in anti-riot tactics,' he says. 'The trainees throw out some challenging queries which force us to think afresh. This drives us to keep up the upgrading and self-improvement.'