Learning to Gong the Wah (Speak Cantonese)
The Law, Porn and Guns
Having completed the Cantonese, we now joined the local officers for the law course. And for the first time, we were also let loose on the range with guns.
Starting with the Colt .38 Revolver; this peashooter was only a threat at close range, and even then it had no stopping power. The Force replaced the Colt in the 1990s with the Smith and Wesson .38. This came with the impressive hollow point bullets.
We later got our hands on the Sterling Sub Machine Gun, AR15 rifle and the Remington Shotgun. My revolver shooting was OK, but the Chinese ladies on the course seemed to excel. Note to criminals ... never try to run away from a Chinese lady police officer with a pistol. She will hit you centre mass, no trouble.
The Sterling was fun to fire, although somewhat unruly. Short bursts were necessary, or the rounds would be flying skyward as the barrel tended to climb. Not something you'd encourage in high-rise Hong Kong.
I'm no gun-nut, yet my favourite weapon was the AR15. This semi-automatic version of the M16, is easy to operate. It's accurate, with my shots going where I aimed them. Always something to I'd recommended in a weapon.
The law course rolled along. I learnt the various offences, judges rules, statement-taking, evidence collection and handling. We're introduced to briefing techniques and operational planning. Then we simulate a drugs raid or other taskings.
It was all makeshift. Classrooms doubled as vice dens. The cricket pitch was a murder scene. These days officers go through a tactical training complex with mock streets, apartments and actors. It soon dawned on me that the practical aspects of the job are going to be learnt on the streets.
The instructors, of course, had their fun. The sexual offences segment of the law course started with us ordered in PT kit. Told to stand in the classroom, an assortment of porno films followed. Any reaction to the movie was immediately on display.
Invited to the front of the room, the unfortunate victim must explain what offences may have taken place on screen. Throughout I was thinking of very old Nuns with facial hair. That held things in check.
Except for a few bumps in the road with stage exams, I did well on the law course. Then in a late surge, scored amongst the highest of my class. Yet, it wasn't all plain sailing. I found the 'bullshit' tiresome. A few of the instructors came across as petty tyrants. I won a bottle of whiskey on the games night, then faced discipline for keeping it visible in my room on inspection.
Later I was to appreciate that some 'bullshit' was necessary to get attention to detail and not something to dismiss as irrelevant. My occasional kickback against the system got me confined to camp at the weekend. Although, I was wising up by learning to keep my displeasure under wraps.
Gated and Getting in Shape
Confinement to camp or ‘gating’, is the standard punishment for whatever infraction the instrcitions invented. It's a pain.
It meant remaining in uniform all day, then reporting to the Guardhouse every hour for inspection. This went on until midnight, after which you stood-down until 7am the next morning.
One Saturday on 'gating' after the last inspection, I was over the fence, into a taxi and downtown. Wanchai here I come.
On the return trip, slightly worst for the drink and emboldened, I breezed through the main gate and was spotted. Another 'gating' resulted ... which I deserved.
As the course progressed, my body shape began to change as the weight dropped off. Regular exercise, the heat and the general running around were having a positive impact. For me, the worst of the physical training was the run over Brick Hill mid-afternoon.
With temperatures in the mid-30s and humidity of 80%, this proved a gut-buster. The Brick Hill course follows the service steps for the Ocean Park cable car. You climb nearly vertically to a high point 800 feet above sea level, before dropping and rising again.
The last leg is a steep knee grinding descent down to Aberdeen and a return to base. Brutal is the only word to describe this route.
On our early attempts, we had to walk, half-run. Our fitness wouldn't allow anything else. If done after lunch, you knew you'd see the food again. A few collapsed on a regular basis.
Feigning exhaustion they'd drop out. Later, at the Police Tactical Unit, I became a decent runner, although I never mastered Brick Hill. It was too much for me, and even now I dread the thought.
Besides our course instructor, we had an assorted group of staff taking responsibility for us. The DMIs handled the foot-drill and firearms training. The PTIs tortured us. These guys were relentless, while our drill instructor morphed into a decent bloke, I was ambivalent about the PTIs.
Foot-drill is often dismissed as nonsense and an unnecessary waste of time. It's a view I held in my early weeks under training.
Undoubtedly, it served a purpose. It brought us together as a group, instilled esprit-de-corp and proved the quickest way of getting people from A to point B in an orderly manner.
The real merit of foot-drill came home to me at the Police Tactical Unit. The discipline it imposed allowed officers to overcome their fears when faced with a hostile situation. Exhibiting purpose and resolve, the other side better take note.