LEARNING about arrest tactics and what do to if you get hit with a petrol bomb is not my usual day at work.
But when I was given the chance to watch members of Devon and Cornwall Police undergo riot training at St Mawgan, in Cornwall, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Travelling down to the RAF base where the training was to take place, I had no idea what to expect. When I arrived, everyone was getting suited and booted in heavy, protective gear before a safety briefing was given.
Disused aircraft hangers and old dilapidated buildings were dotted around the site which, teamed with the low-lying mist and drizzle, created a dramatic atmosphere.
First I watched officers carrying out drills which involved using riot vans to control imaginary crowds by funnelling them through small gaps.
The second was arrest tactics, devised following the London riots of 2011.
Then it was training using baton rounds, or non-lethal rubber bullets sometimes used in crowd control.
After lunch it was time for a mock riot with petrol bombs.
The inspectors running the operation were told a workforce was protesting against an unfair balance of immigrants to workers recruited from the local area.
Half the officers formed the workforce, while the other half formed a PSU.
The crowd put on a seriously good show, shouting and throwing objects at the police whose aim was to force them back through the factory grounds and out of a back entrance.
One crowd member even hammered the police with a baseball bat. This may have been a mock demonstration, but it looked pretty realistic to me.
After about half an hour of rioting through the grounds, I spotted a man to my left preparing bottles filled with petrol and a wick.
Then all of a sudden the Molotov cocktails were launched at the feet of the police.
The explosion was bigger than I expected and one officer’s foot was caught in the flames.
They had all been told to stamp their feet to get rid of the petrol, but I imagine it’s hard to think straight when you’re on fire.
After the demonstration, officers were given a debrief before they finished for the day and headed back to North Devon.
Officers deployed all over the country to help out
BARNSTAPLE PC Chris Friendship was at the riot training in Cornwall last week.
He said while people in North Devon might think police in the area do not need to be trained for such events, officers were sent all over the country to cover for their colleagues.
He said: “Trying to train for this is not the easiest thing in the world to do.
“We went to Northern Ireland for the G8 and the July 8 protests.
“At the end of the day everybody has to be trained to the same standard, and if a wheel fell off somewhere we have the ability as a unit to go and help.
“At some point in the future you may need it in North Devon, at which point you’d be relying on other people.”
Chris said the riot demonstration in the training teaches officers how to deal with real-life riots.
“I’ve never faced it in real life but it’s something you hear about and you do get the sensation,” he said.
And talking about petrol bombs, he said: “If you spend too much time in clothing that’s alight and don’t get it off it will burn you. These are flame retardant so you’ve got to learn not to be scared and freak out and say ‘oh I’m on fire’. You’ve got to deal with it.”
Who are the riot police and what do they wear?
RIOT police are known as a police support unit, which means officers who have undergone extra training in order to support local policing teams.
Officers volunteer for the training and receive no extra pay for doing so.
Before going out to an incident, officers must ensure they have on all their protective clothing. This includes:
Flame-retardant cotton longjohns
Shields for the feet, shins, knees, thighs, elbows and shoulders
A stab vest