On May 9, I arrive at the RNZPC bright and early to be greeted by Insp. Derek SARNEY, who was proven to be a gracious and knowledgeable host. He gave me a tour of the college complete with defensive tactics, gun range, scenario village, etc. I was impressed with the sim village as it was brand new ($12 million) boasting several multi-level houses, all wired for video and feeding to a control room.  In my view, videotaping scenarios is a real bonus to complete the learning experience. Some details are obviously lost in the moment, so feedback is less impactful compared to the ability to debrief a scenario using video playback. The interior walls look like painted gyprock, but are actually made of plywood, making for a durable set. Even the thinly carpeted floors have a drain in them making for easier and complete clean-ups (especially when medical scenarios involving fluids are used). The doors and windows consist of break-away openings that can be repeatedly hammered in and reset during forced-entry practice, which is very useful.

Team Leader, J.K. KORENT, kindly took over my tour. An older simpler scenario room had a mezzanine surrounding the action area for unintrusive viewing, and other rooms were also available for gentler (less destructive) scenarios. A large range with at least 20 shooting bays was available for training use (they do not carry guns, rather Glock 17s and rifles come with their patrol vehicles). Vehicles can be driven into the range building to practice Code V road stops. The spacious central gym used puzzle mats that need frequent placement and packing up. There were other padded rooms in use for defensive tactics and Taser training they are currently transitioning to the Taser 10 (as with Brisbane police).

I met A/Supervisor Darryl HIGGS, and later, unsworn members Sarah THOMAS and Luke WAHREN. This latter trainer took me for lunch and we had a great discussion about use-of-force training, which turned into a technique-sharing session on mats located in one corner of their office. I like the fact that they could “throw down” and otherwise workshop ideas as they arose. Luke was very interested in the twistlock, so hopefully it will work itself into their curriculum which is currently under review.

Luke testing out the twistlock on me.

I enjoyed watching their team tactics in making physical arrests. They tended to make “seatbelt” and body lock types of takedowns, rather than judo-style ones. Indeed, there are more than one way to skin a cat. Surprisingly, they still were teaching striking techniques (punching, kneeing, etc.) to create space, whereas other agencies tend to steer clear of these kinds of techniques, given their optically negative association with “police brutality”. The NZ officers are not immune to public and political pressure though (e.g., they do not teach neck restraints), but there seems to be fewer constraints on the kinds of force that are not generally palatable to the public these days.

Putting through 600-800 recruits a year helps to replace 500 officers per year they lose through attrition. There are upwards of 16,000 staff members (a sizeable portion are admin members). I was surprised to learn that they hire recruits in the 18-55 year age range! Their fitness standards, like others, are relatively lax, as they too are drawing from a small recruiting puddle. Their academy time was recently increased from 16 weeks to 20 weeks, with but a single week of practicum experience (Week 16). The recruits receive 48 defensive tactics sessions that are of 100 minutes duration each. These classes are interspersed with their academic studies, giving them time to assimilate these physical skills with theory. The class sizes are small (20) with at least two instructors overseeing these classes. About half of the instructors are unsworn members and have varied backgrounds and skill sets. On top of the recruit training, the in-service members receive at least 3 training days per year (PITT: Police Integrated Tactical Training), so the instructors are busy indeed.

After two days at this fine facility, Insp. SARNEY kindly sets me up with a visit to the in-service training being done in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. I eagerly await to hear from my contact there, James PLATT as I hit the road for the north part of the island.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *