Aiming for a top standard
THE journey has been long and gruelling, but for just five police officers out of 20, the work has paid off after they were selected for Cambridgeshire police s Tactical Firearms Unit (TFU). Among the most highly-trained in the force, the latest batch of
THE journey has been long and gruelling, but for just five police officers out of 20, the work has paid off after they were selected for Cambridgeshire police's Tactical Firearms Unit (TFU).
Among the most highly-trained in the force, the latest batch of TFU officers were whittled down over a seven-week course from 20 to 13, before the final five graduated to become fully-fledged firearms officers.
Helping to sift the applicants is Sergeant Spencer Evans, pictured, who said: "The TFU entry course is demanding, but that is because we expect officers to adhere to the highest standards.
"Some student officers just naturally can't shoot, some can shoot but need a lot of work and some are natural, accurate shots. Most people fall into the middle category.
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"The seven-week course is very intensive. There is a lot of work crammed into two weeks and that can be a massive mental hurdle."
The recent use of a Taser gun in the county was the first time a member of the unit has had to fire any weapon in a live situation.
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But despite the rarity of such incidents, TFU officers are among the most skilled in the force.
All trainee firearms officers must complete the demanding course (the longest qualification course in the constabulary), which covers areas including tactics, shooting, understanding mental health, judgement training and first aid.
Sgt Evans said the tough training regime was crucial to prepare officers for the life-or-death situations they could face when qualified.
He said situations had arisen where officers dealing with armed men had their safety catches off and pressure applied to the trigger - the final stage before shooting - but had never had to fire.
"We like to believe that we have a high level of training," Sgt Evans added.
"All our officers are trained in initial negotiation, which helps us to deal with, understand and listen to people.
"We pride ourselves on training officers above the standard that is put out nationally. We have to qualify in our primary and secondary weapons every three months, and every six months for baton gun and Taser."
The TFU was created in 1993 and currently has 44 staff. It has six marked armed response vehicles (ARVs) - Volvos and Range Rovers - which can be distinguished from normal squad cars for their blue bodywork rather than white.
There are also several unmarked vehicles.
Officers work 12-hour shifts and are dedicated to regular patrol in one of the force's divisions, although their primary function is firearms duties.
On average, there are about 300 firearms incidents in the county every year, including pre-planned events and close-protection operations. This number has increased slowly over the past five years.
The primary weapon of a firearms officer. It is a high-velocity, semi-automatic weapon, which fires a 5.56mm round and can be used on all firearms jobs. It is very accurate and effective and has the greatest range of the four main weapons.
AEP Launcher (TFU Baton Gun)
Used in situations where a "less lethal" firearm is required.
In effect, it is a baton which can be used at long range. It fires one 37mm round, a rubber soft-tipped bullet, which strikes with a similar force as a baton strike.
Glock 17 self-loading pistol
A 9mm sidearm, which can be used in all firearms situations. It is ideal for targets at short range, is easily accessible and very accurate.
It is used by many of the world's police services.
A less-lethal weapon which can only be used at short range and is very effective at incapacitating a person. It discharges a pair of probes into the subject from up to 21 feet away. The probes contain sharp barbs, which connect to clothing or penetrate the skin to create a circuit. 50,000 volts is then passed through the conducting wire to the subject for up to five seconds. A Taser was used for the first time in the county last month during an incident in Peterborough.
Accuracy International 7.62 Rifle
A 7.62mm rifle with telescopic sights. It is accurate at 500 metres and can only be used by specialist rifle officers.
It is the most powerful, accurate and longest range weapon available to officers and is used in situations including the containment of a building or the destruction of escaped animals. It is used less often than the other weapons.