A Day In The Life – Parading at Walsall Police Station, Friday January 20th 2012, Tour of Duty – 08:30 to 15:30
Once every year all front line police officers are required to attend a ‘Personal Safety Training’ (PST) course to refresh their skills in restraint of prisoners, use of handcuffs, CS spray, batons and the like. Many officers refer to the course as ‘ninja training ‘ and having been a year since I last did a PST course, today was my turn.
First of all for any of you smarty pants readers, the courses are staggered throughout the year so that you don’t get all eight thousand West Midlands officers descending on the gym at Walsall at the same time. That cleared up, what does a PST refresher involve?
The course is two days long and prior to attending we have to complete an online learning package to go over the legal aspects associated with using force. The laws allowing us to use force where necessary and the force policies are then interwoven with the practical exercises over the course itself.
Starting off in the morning – after we’ve drunken some tea – we will have just about got used to the sight of each other wearing tracksuits when we do a few warm up exercises which involve walking in circles, waving our arms and then doing both at the same time.
Sufficiently warmed up/dizzy, we then looked at the correct application of handcuffs. This involved me experiencing a rather skillful ‘take down’ from my partner and hearing the ratchet sound of the cuffs as they locked around my wrists. It’s always a bit of an odd feeling being on the other end of the cuffs but it was a useful reminder of how they feel for when I go back to putting them on other people.
We then start a consolidation exercise building on the inputs from the previous day which involved being given foam batons, training CS canisters filled with water and then being attacked by an aggressor armed with a martial arts pad and a mean attitude. I yelled “GET BACK, STAY BACK”, he didn’t and so I gave a quick burst from my ‘CS’ and then delivered a baton strike to his leg, allowing me then to handcuff him and bring him under control.
Lunch follows and then in the afternoon we spent some time looking at how we can encourage people out of motor vehicles when they’re not keen on joining us on the roadside for a chat. We also did exercises involving ‘cell extractions’ – how to safely put people into or remove people from custody cells – and then we spent some time on searching skills.
The point of the training isn’t so much to teach us how to do things as skills like handcuffing we do all the time, nor is it carried out with the aim that we’ll use every technique we’re shown. Rather it helps ensure that we’re able to use our kit in a safe and effective manner and that should we need it, we have something to fall back on to protect ourselves.
As the trainers say, they give us a ‘box of tools’ which we can pick from as we see necessary. Many of the techniques, especially those involving batons and CS, we hope we never need – I’ve never used either of mine – and it’s quite rightly stressed that the best PST skill of all is talking your way out of a situation.
The day finished with the authorisation cards allowing us to carry our batons and CS being handed out and with this done, we are able to leave the gym and admire the red marks lefts on our wrists by the cuffs!