Road Policing Unit - Advanced TPAC Training

RPU officer, myself and advanced sriving instructorBelow is the article that was approved for release to the Portsmouth News for publication, but was not published.  Operational details and procedures used on this refresher course are confidential.

We have probably all seen on TV the Police happening to be in the right place at the right time to deploy the “STINGER” and bringing a subject car to a rapid halt with shredded tyres.

We may also have watched even more dramatic scenes when vehicles are forced to stop on the motorways and elsewhere after being boxed in by two or three police cars, with luckily, the public in their cars by pure chance not being anywhere near these scenes and kept safe.

Well, what you may have seen on TV is very different to reality as I observed when on the advanced Tactical Pursuit And Containment (TPAC) course that I was fortunate to attend and which was a real eye-opener on the effectiveness of police training and procedures.

Background to attendance

Part of my current role of being on the Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG) and my previous role as a councillor is understanding how residents are kept safe and protected and in 2016, I participated as an observer with the Road Policing Unit (RPU) 10-hour shift sitting in the passenger seat and being driven by an RPU officer in one of their BMW 530Ds and which was reported here: https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/crime/the-realities-of-life-on-the-roads-with-our-police-1-7506557

The Inspector at the time, Steve Wakeford must have sensed my interest in driving and policing, so he suggested I may like to go as an observer on the Force’s TPAC course.  At that time, I had no idea what this course was about, but I was later to discover that I was the first non-police observer ever to attend the course.

Restrictions on course attendees were for two reasons: the first was for health and safety as progressive driving was involved and secondly because of the confidential nature of the procedures that were disclosed and applied.

Day 1 Driver Training School

So, after gaining the necessary approvals and after two deferrals (as police officers must be given priority for places), I left home on Wednesday at 7:30am heading for the military base where the Police specialist driver training is conducted.  Arriving at the entrance, the guard examined my paperwork, passport and councillor photo-id and directed me to the guard house where I was photographed, given a visitor badge and escorted to the Driver Training School.

Thames Valley and Hampshire Police work together as a joint operations unit and share resources for efficiency and productivity and for this course, it was the Thames Valley officers that were on the course.

All RPU officers are highly trained in high-speed driving and are authorised when appropriate to drive in excess of the national speed limits. They are also trained to carry out potentially hazardous operations, and the purpose of this 2-day course, was not to teach new material, but to reinforce and validate knowledge and procedures that the officers should already be familiar with.

After going through the safety induction by the head of Driver Training and being rechecked I had no medical or other reasons not to attend, I was introduced to the driving instructors and the course attendees who were from the RPU and firearms officers.

At the start of the first day, the instructors reinforced the absolute requirement that the public must be fully protected both during the practical exercises and during live deployment of all the techniques we were to use.

Using the HOSTYD on the motorway

The first exercise was using the HOllow Spike TYre Deflation (HOSTYD) device; we may have seen the STINGER in use on the TV, but this device is of a different design, and more effective in performing its task.
In all the scenarios that were performed the “subject” (the police prefer not to use the term villain) car was an unmarked high-performance police car that is particularly agile, and which was driven by one of the advanced driving instructors.

For the exercise, the spikes were removed from the HOSTYD to avoid unnecessary damage to the unmarked car.
When I was told that the first exercise would be carried out live on the M27, I became intensely curious as to how this could be performed to enable the public to be protected without a closure of the motorway.

It was only when the instructor recapped the procedure (which was new to me) that would be followed and the roles of each of the officers, that I realised that there was far more planning, training and coordination involved than I had expected.
During each repeat of the exercise, each of the cars performed different roles so giving the officers the opportunity to observe or perform each task.

So, we set off for the M27, after the rush hour. The police cars were deployed to the appropriate locations and the chase began with the unmarked car being chased at high speed off the M27, and then onto the M27 where within minutes the HOSTYD was deployed and run over by the subject car (and in a real scenario the tyres would have been shredded) with the chasing police car being careful not to run over the HOSTYD.

For someone who had not experienced this before, motorists on the M27 would barely have noticed what was happening as they were delayed no more than a few minutes as the scenario was performed so quickly.
We performed the HOSTYD exercise five times. After each exercise, we regrouped, and feedback was provided by the instructors with any fresh learning outcomes.

Once the morning exercise had been completed, we adjourned to the mess at the MOD base for lunch and were then briefed on the next task.

Using the HOSTYD on B class roads

RPU parked on B road for "stinger stop" preparationFor the afternoon, the task was to successfully deploy the HOSTYD on B class roads without of course allowing a member of the public to drive over the device.

The officers had to find a suitable location to hide, that offered concealment and protection for themselves but giving them sufficient visibility to deploy the HOSTYD device at precisely the right time, while at all the times ensuring the public were safe.
Within moments, the roar of the subject car and the sirens of the chasing car could be heard and after another deployment another successful test was completed.

Again, we regrouped and feedback on the exercises was received, and it was becoming very clear to me by now that the successful deployment was not by chance, but instead by each officer knowing exactly what their role was and where they had to be throughout each of the exercises while all the time the exercise was being controlled on a very busy police radio channel.

These exercises were very intense and required great concentration and by the end of the day I was rather tired but even more keen to start on day two.

Day 2 and Boxing In

On Thursday, such are the traffic conditions on Hayling Island that it took me just 10 minutes to leave the Island whereas the previous day it had taken 25 minutes and so I arrived at the MOD base somewhat earlier.

The instructor in our car was Steve, who has been in the Police Force for 30 years of which 21 years were in Traffic; he has spent the last 14 years as a civilian advanced driving instructor who clearly enjoys his job and does it well.  Steve escorted me through the gates to the driving school building and at 8:45am, the chief instructor announced we would be performing five scenarios of boxing in cars in the M27 and bringing them to a hard stop.

Again, I thought, how can you do that on the M27 which is busy even outside the rush hour peak? Then, the procedure was briefly explained and the roles and responsibilities of each officer in each car were made clear. It was clear to me that even before we started the exercise that an enormous amount of coordination was needed to have people in the right place at the right time all the time.

Coordination and team work was key, and in one of these scenarios, our car was somewhat late and out of position, so a sprint down the M27 at high speed with the blues and twos going, got us in place just in time.  In one of the scenarios, the driver in the subject car, the very sporty and nimble unmarked police car was moving violently between the hard shoulder and the outer lane desperately and repeatedly trying to break through the three police cars that were trying equally hard to prevent him from doing so.
In another of the scenarios, I was in one of the cars doing the boxing and we were lurching from left to right continuously, but each exercise was over in a matter of minutes with the subject car being successfully boxed in and suffering a little nudge while doing so.

Meanwhile, I doubt those driving along the M27 would have appreciated what had happened as they would just have experienced a bit of bunching.  This was probably the highlight of the course, and I’m now coming to believe that what seemed very difficult and if not almost impossible, can be achieved with skilled officers, good teamwork and coordination.

Pre-emptive stops

After these five scenarios had been completed, we went back to the MOD base for a feedback session, then lunch in the mess again before the pre-emptive boxing exercise.

The instructors reminded the officers on the course that a Pursuit and boxing-in on a dual carriageway or motorway should best be avoided if possible, and that if the subject car was positively identified as needing to be stopped, then what is called a “pre-emptive stop” should be applied. 

Feedback

Once we finished, the final scenario, we returned to the base whereupon I gave my initial thoughts on the course and spoke to Gavin who is an Inspector in the Oxford RPU (see photo) who was here for the refresher.
That night I was mentally exhausted and very tired and so it was an early night before I returned to Portsmouth Guildhall the following day for an excellent concert.

Reflecting

Over the weekend, I had time to reflect over what I had observed and learned.

  1. It was very apparent that the TPAC course was a refresher and that the officers already knew exactly what they should be doing at all times in each of their assigned roles for each of the scenarios.
  2. The driving ability of the officers was outstanding; they had come from the Thames Valley area and were driving safely and fast along B Roads they did not know, meanwhile I felt completely safe.
  3. Clear communication and the highest level of teamwork was essential to successfully complete the tasks, and this was clearly demonstrated.
  4. The techniques and roles that each of officers used are confidential, but it was evident that they had been refined and were very effective.
  5. The instructors approach to the class was of positive encouragement and this led to an effective learning environment.

IMG 6194 TPAC2Let me finish by expressing my deep concern over Police budget cuts to the Neighbourhood Policing Teams, the 999 Response and Patrol Teams and the Road Policing Unit, with the latter having had their vehicles cut to one third of the numbers between 2003 and 2018, although the Highways Agency has taken on some of the work.

I am gravely concerned that any future budget cuts, which I contend are wrong, will adversely affect the Police’s ability to adequately protect us and safely perform the exercises of the past two days in a real live environment because of a lack of vehicles and officers.

Thank you

I cannot close without thanking Inspector Steve Wakeford for nominating me for this course; the officer(s) who authorised my attendance; Driver Training who do an excellent job and finally those in the RPU who were on the course and are working hard to keep us all safe in Hampshire and the Thames Valley.

Thank you very much indeed, I owe you one!

John Perry,
Independent Advisory Group of the Hampshire Police.