Protection World Leaders Can Bank On

Using live ammunition, VIP PU team members spring into
action during a frontal assault scenario on a "VIP" under
their protection

Some two-dozen dignitaries, finance ministers and top-level representatives of the international community will make Hong Kong once again the centre of world attention as they attend the upcoming World Bank-International Monetary Fund annual meeting which runs from 21 to 25 September

@And once again the Hong Kong Police Force's VIP Protection Unit will be responsible for the individual safety of these Internationally Protected Persons from the minute they arrive in the HKSAR to the minute they leave. The logistics of the undertaking are daunting - the responsibilities immense.

@Few of the Unit's members would have it any other way.

@"Officers who join the VIP Protection Unit are highly motivated and do so because of the challenging nature of the work," says Kieran Hale, Training Officer, with six years experience in the VIP PU. "They are police officers who want to take on more responsibility - who want to serve in a unit which lays emphasis on self-reliance, leadership and initiative.

@They are less attracted to the VIP PU by the false Hollywood version of bodyguards in shoot outs and high-speed car chases than to the idea of professional development, personal growth, and specialist skills training.

@"There's much more risk of a VIP falling and twisting an ankle, or of having a heart attack, than of getting shot," agree Sergeant Lung Chun-fung and Woman Police Constable May Ho Siu-mei, two junior police officers of the VIP Protection Unit who say the challenging nature of the work and the opportunity to receive special training were main reasons for joining the Unit.

@In order to deal with all kinds of situations constant training is required to maintain skills and keep up-to-date on the latest equipment, technology and security techniques. The essence of this type of work is to always be prepared.

@Although the Unit excels in firearms (including specialist and support weapons) training, close protection, crowd control, self-defence, tactical driving, physical and tactical training, officers also attend English and Putonghua courses, become highly computer literate and develop liaison skills necessary to deal with senior government officials, diplomatic corps members and private sector officials.

@In fact, few people realise the tremendous amount of emphasis the VIP Protection Unit puts on specialist medical training. By next year all VIP PU officers will be qualified in BTLS (Basic Trauma Life Support) an internationally recognised trauma support system.

With the World Bank- International Monetary Fund meeting about to begin, VIP Protection Unit officers are expected to measure up to the responsibilities given to them - which just may involve saving the life of a nation's leader. It's not the type of job you can just switch off at the end of the day. But then, none of the Unit's members would have it any other way

@"Because we are responsible for the safety of VIPs while they are in Hong Kong, we need to know how to deal with any medical emergency - not only criminal attacks but also general health problems. We need to stabilise the situation until professional medical help is available," explains four-year Unit member Lung, who has been with the Hong Kong Police for 19 years. Before joining the VIP PU, he was a member of the Airport Security Unit and has been a physical training instructor at the Police Training School.

@In addition VIP PU officers' regular training includes casualty simulation, local Hospital Authority emergency ward and ambulance attachments, as well as instruction by officers of the Fire Service Department in dealing with hotel or venue fire emergencies.

@"Due to the opportunities available for training within the Unit," explains Mr Hale, "We are recognised as having above average medical skills and, as such, other units in the Force have used us to provide training for them."

@Indeed, the VIP PU trauma pack - specifically developed to suit the Unit's needs - is not your basic first aid kit but rather a highly sophisticated life-support pack that contains professional medical equipment designed for pre-hospital care.

@Specialist firearms training is another area in which the VIP PU prides itself and as such is dedicated to the maintenance of its ultra-high standards. Watching a VIP PU team practice a frontal attack scenario on a "VIP" under their protection at the PTS shooting range instils total confidence in their professional abilities.

@"We use live ammunition, so you're got to be able to trust your team mates," says Mr Hale.

@Training includes everything from target practice to using special and support weapons to simulated scenarios to the use of "simunition" for extra realism in highly tactical operations practice. Simunition is a bullet that fires a tiny capsule of paint instead of a slug. In addition, VIP PU officers often train in joint exercises with the Special Duties Unit, Police Tactical Unit and the Airport Security Unit.

@"Before I joined the VIP Protection Unit I had no shooting experience. But since, I have received the same high standard of weapons training as my male counterparts. In fact, WPCs are given extra responsibilities in terms of providing close escort to female VIPs," says WPC May Ho Siu-mei, who has helped protect Diana, Princess of Wales, Philippine First Lady Mrs Ramos and wives of other dignitaries - another aspect of the job which takes it out of the realm of everyday police work.

WPC Ho joined the Unit two-and-a-half years ago for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that few other specialist units in the Force provide women police constables with the same opportunities and training (including overseas training) as the VIP PU, where WPCs do exactly the same jobs as PCs.

@A case in point is the Pressure Point Control Tactics training that all VIP PU officers constantly undergo and where the diminutive WPC Ho, a Physical Training Instructor course graduate, is particularly respected.

@Pressure Point Control Tactics are deceptively simple yet extremely effective defensive techniques used to subdue an opponent. After training in the US, VIP PU officers introduced the tactics to the Force four years ago and have since used their qualified instructors to teach the method to other units throughout the Force. The VIP PU's input has resulted in the PPCT system being adopted into the Force's defensive tactics training.

@"I am glad that as a woman officer, I have the chance to take the advanced PPCT course in connection with my escort team work," said WPC Ho, who won the Nine Dragons Race in 1994 and participates in the Dowman Race every year. "What I have also found is because of the relatively small size of the Unit, qualified junior police officers get the opportunity to manage small teams. In fact, VIP PU officers tend to be given more responsibility and autonomy because they must often make decisions then and there. This brings immense job satisfaction."

@Echoes Sergeant Lung: "When the VIP PU receives a foreign dignitary's itinerary, we must co-ordinate manpower for the arrangement of venue security. The nature of our work requires optimum communication, co-ordination, team work and leadership. As a JPO, the nature of my work is extremely rewarding."

@Helping the VIP Protection Unit during the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meeting will be approximately 200 Hong Kong Police officers, seconded from different formations, and currently being trained by VIP PU officers.

VIP Selection

Applicantions are invited from both male and female officers in the ranks of Inspector, NCO and Constable to serve in the VIP Protection Unit.

@All applicants should be physically fit and capable of serving in a unit which lays emphasis on self-reliance, leadership, initiative and self-discipline.

@A pre-selection will be held in October 1997 with successful candidates being invited to attend selection in November 1997. The Unit will hold a Basic Training Course in January/February 1998.

@A seminar will be held in the function room of the Police Officers' Club in Causeway Bay on Friday 3 October, 1997. This will be an opportunity for those interested in receiving a short brief about the Unit and its mission - along with details about the selection procedure.

@Direct enquiries to Alice Lee (2860-3118), or Kieran Hale (2860-3120).

This site is best viewed by 800x600 or higher screen resolution.
All Rights Reserved. Offbeat Copyright 1997