Firearms candidates face "toughest" training
7 June 2012
"THE TOUGHEST police training these officers will ever experience" – that's the view of West Midlands Police's lead firearms instructor as the force launches the first of four films following candidates hoping to join the armed response ranks.
More than 200 officers – all with at least two years' service under their belts – applied to join the firearms unit earlier this year.
A medical, gruelling fitness test, basic gun handling assessment and scenario-based examinations saw that number whittled down to 24.
But according to Inspector Simon Pemberton, the hard work starts now as the officers embark on an intensive 10-week course which will challenge their technical, physical and mental abilities.
He said: "It's is a very demanding course…we make no apology for that because we only want the best, most suitable officers joining the firearms department.
"All 24 have a minimum two years' policing skills, which stands them in good stead, but the firearms course challenges their ability to multi-task, assimilate information quickly and make split-second decisions under extreme pressure.
"I expect most people think it's all about being an accurate shot and competent weapons handler. Obviously that's important but proportionality, temperament and using the right level of force in a variety of situations is also paramount.
"It's a role that comes with huge amounts of responsibility and I have to be 100 per cent confident we have the right people in the team."
The first of four videos – all to be featured on West Midlands Police's YouTube channel – shows students facing handgun and MP5 rifle accuracy tests on the force's state-of-the-art firing ranges.
Only 12 can progress to the tactical stages of the course which include exercises on location across the region.
The successful candidates will ultimately join the armed response unit which is on standby around the clock to protect communities in the West Midlands against the threat of gun or knife crime.
Insp Pemberton, added: "As the course progresses we will lose some of the candidates either due to them failing qualification shoots or the instructors' determining they're not quite right for the role.
"Some will also voluntarily drop out of the process for personal reasons and I respect those decisions. The enormity of the role is very apparent through the realistic exercises we take students through – and some simply decide it's not for them.
"Firearms incidents are rare and taking a shot is always a last resort. But there is a chance one of these recruits could be faced with a life or death decision of whether to pull the trigger – and it could happen on their first ARV shift."
The second video instalment – scheduled for release on West Midlands Police's YouTube channel on June 14 – shows candidates out on tactical scenario training containing a farmhouse which is being held by colleagues posing as armed offenders.
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