Police academy: Four of the 10 recruits currently undergoing the 25-week officer training course at police headquarters. They learn how to cope with violent and abusive situations and how to balance their home life with unsocial shift work. *Photo by Sirkka Huish
Police academy: Four of the 10 recruits currently undergoing the 25-week officer training course at police headquarters. They learn how to cope with violent and abusive situations and how to balance their home life with unsocial shift work. *Photo by Sirkka Huish
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Bermuda’s latest batch of police recruits is undergoing more rigorous training to prevent future staff shortages.

The cadets must complete driver training before they start patrolling the streets as officers.

It is so they get the road course “out of the way” and do not have to be taken off the job at a later date.

Until now officers stopped their normal duties for the three-week training, which qualifies them to drive a patrol car.

But this raised concerns about staff shortages, especially as the island continues to suffer soaring gun crime.

Abusive

The 10 recruits currently in the classroom at police headquarters are the ‘guinea pigs’ for the revamped 25-week training course.

As well as learning how to cope with the stress of being on the front line, a new wellness programme teaches them how to mentally cope with violent and abusive situations.

They also focus on how to balance their home life and eating habits when working shifts.

It is expected that these two new components will be made a compulsory part of future recruit courses.

Acting Chief Inspector Charlene Thompson, of the Bermuda Police Training School, said: “With this training course we are doing things a bit differently. We are having the new recruits go out as trained drivers.

“This means we won’t have to pull them off duty causing man-power issues on certain watches.

“After a while officers would usually come back to us for their driver training and watches would be working short. But now they can continue to stay out on the beat where they will be needed most.

“We hope to continue to incorporate this into training for new recruits.”

The recruits, four women and six men aged 19 to 42, started their training at the end of August.

Nine of them are Bermudian and one is a spouse of a Bermudian from Jamaica.

One of the trainees has had five years policing experience in the U.K. and another was in the Bermuda Reserve Police.

They are in the classroom from 7:45am until 4pm from Monday to Friday, with optional study sessions available on Saturday mornings.

Each recruit is given a manual, containing almost 1,000 pages, known as the “police Bible”. 

They have to learn basic policing skills such as interview techniques, leadership, problem solving, legislation and ethical standards. They must also take part in team-building exercises at Paget Island and the frequently hated physical tests where they are pushed to their limits.

There are weekly exams and recruits have two three-week work placements to get “hands-on experience”.

Acting Chief Inspector Thompson said the new recruits are being trained to be “the most competent of officers”.

She added: “The students know what is expected of them. We have a goal about what type of officer the Service expects.

Intense

 “Training is no walk in the park — it is intense but fun at the same time.

 “Everything we do, there is a reason to do it. We have very high standards.

“I want these recruits to be able to rival any watch member they may end up working with.

“I want them to be able to conduct themselves in a way that makes it difficult to differentiate between new and seasoned officers.”

Acting Chief Inspector Thompson said things will “get intense” for the new recruits when they are assigned to their units.

She added: “At the moment they are in a safe learning environment where they can make mistakes. It will be a different story when they are on the streets — then the real work will begin.”

The police recruits from foundation course number 73 are expected to graduate on February 29.

If there is one police recruit who knows about being on the beat it is David McHugh.

The 32-year-old has answered the call of duty on his home island after spending five years as an officer in England.

PC McHugh, a dad of one, jokes it is a case of “same job, different country” as he undergoes his police training for a second time.

He is one of 10 recruits undergoing the Bermuda Police Service’s 25-week training programme at Prospect.

He said he uses his knowledge and previous experience to help others in the classroom.

PC McHugh added: “The first few weeks of the course have been hard, it’s a steep learning curve, but luckily a lot of the stuff mirrors what I learned in the U.K.

“I’m really enjoying the training and hopefully my background will help me.

“I’m hoping learning for the second time will make me twice as good.”

PC McHugh’s English wife Helen has also recently qualified as a police officer in Bermuda. She served as an officer in Wales for nine years.

PC McHugh said: “We’ve worked in neighbouring forces before but not the same force. I just hope we’re not on the same shift.”

The couple have a four-year-old daughter, Amber, “who loves to run around the house in a police hat and fluorescent jacket”.

But she is still unsure whether she wants to follow in her parents’ footsteps — she cannot decide whether to be “a police officer, a vet or a princess”. PC McHugh was born in Bermuda but moved to England when he was 17 to continue his education.

His wife joined North Wales Police and he joined neighbouring West Mercia Constabulary, serving the Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire areas.

He served as an officer from December 2001 to January 2007 having successfully completed West Mercia’s 25-week residential programme.

PC McHugh moved back to Bermuda with his family about a year ago after 14 years in the U.K. He said: “It feels good to be home — I’m happy to be able to serve my country.”

PC McHugh is interested in working in the firearms unit, saying: “That’s where the need is right now.”