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Getting physical with the Police

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Anyone who knows me will understand the excitement I felt when I heard that this week's boot camp was to be riot training with the Police Support Unit (PSU), a section of policemen and women who train harder to make our Island a little safer. I've covered the PSU on a number of occasions; driving with them in the middle of the night as they are handling calls to stop fights and conduct drug searches, warrant checks and the like. One memorable Hallowe'en I was on patrol with a PSU unit, and while driving through the Ord Road area we were attacked by a cocktail. No, not a Molotov cocktail, but a steady stream of fruit pelting the jeep from our right flank. It was my first experience of a 'drive-by fruiting'. I've also covered and participated in police and regiment riot training, and loved every minute of that, too. As a matter of fact, I enjoy covering anything to do with the men and women in uniforms both blue and green. In my younger years, I even went so far as to convince my wife to allow me to cover a story in a war zone. Her response: 'I know you have always wanted to do this, so, okay, do it now and get it out of your system but never again after this. 'Oh, and buy extra life insurance before you go. Uh, and also, what's your PIN number?' So, as you can see, I'm psyched at the thought of being pelted by bricks and an assortment of missiles, of using a six-foot riot shield to protect my team members and myself. I have faith in the flame-resistant suits given to us to wear while walking through exploding petrol bombs; I'm thrilled about firing rubber bullets and tear gas to keep back the rioting masses. Yes, mate, this is all me! We were standing there, waiting with anticipation for the day's exciting events to unfold, when the heavens opened up and it started to rain and rain and rain. As I watched, water droplets fell from the end of my nose, and I considered how ironic it was, that here we were about to embark on our internal security exercise in the rain, when back in '77 when Bermuda had its last riot, it was the rain that put an end to the three days of civil unrest. It wasn't the police, it wasn't the regiment, and it wasn't the British Army that flew in from Belize with a million dollar price tag, but it was precipitation. It was good old Mother Nature. So let's get this show on the road. On the ground, I saw some cool gear: helmets, batons, which are simply big sticks, something that could be called body armour at a stretch, shin and elbow pads although they were your everyday garden-variety type. Must be the Government cutbacks we've heard about. Wait a minute! What on Earth is that telephone poles? Someone has taken telephone poles, painted them and applied about a millimetre layer of foam on either end. Anyway, can't worry about that now. 'Welcome the PSU riot training exercise' shouted the 'camp commandant'. At least, I think that's what he said. He WAS speaking in Scottish. Then, he went on to explain how the day's events were going to unfold. Hey, hey, hey! This ain't no riot training! This is a crazy, sadistic game of dress-up! I looked around, thinking 'I know, I'm in the wrong group!' But no, I see all the familiar faces that I've become accustomed to seeing every Saturday morning. I was misled. I was misinformed. I was pissed! As I understood it, (once again, there is the issue of the Scottish translation) we were supposed to run to a certain area, do an exercise, put on a piece of kit, run back, tag our team member who then does the same, until we all have our kit on. Then, we were to run up to our telephone pole, pick it up and run around the outside of the football field. All right, whatever. Let's get on with it. By now, the field had been enjoying the rain and the grass was turning into mud. Have you ever tried to climb a mountain while covered with grease? This is what it felt like. Bodies were slipping and sliding all over the place. Those nice, white sponsor T-shirts with the BF&M logo on it, handed out before the day's events, were by then covered in an inch of mud. This is not to say that the police didn't take pity on us. My good friend, Stewart Kirkpatrick, gave me a helping hand or I should say, a helping knee, as he placed it firmly in my back as I was trying to do push-ups. That's okay, Stewart, pay-back is a bitch, my friend! And so the team was fully kitted-up, and we had a slight lead. We picked up the telephone pole and we were off. My God, that thing was heavy! The millimetre thick foam cushioning did little to help, but we couldn't worry about that. We had a good routine going person on the front, person on the back, run until you got tired, shout 'change' and the next person took over. It went like clockwork. We kept our lead, got back to the starting point, threw down our log and celebrated. Yes! We had come in first! Then came that familiar accent through the bucketing rain storm: 'Reet new, dontcha be celebrating just yet, ya not finished, newya gonna dew it backwards!' The Queen's English translation: 'Hey, idiots, what you celebrating for? You're only half way through.' What a bunch of morons, I seethed. There had better be a cold beer waiting for me at the Police Club by the time I'm finished! So, after a five-minute water break, we were off again. Now, I don't know if the pole was saturated with rain water, or we just got weaker, but it had doubled in weight or so it seemed. We ran around the outside of the field, got back to our starting point, threw down the pole, stripped off our first piece of kit, ran to the wall, ran back, took off the next bit of kit, then the next, until all the kit was sitting on the ground under an inch of mud. We lined up. Our hands went up to signal that we were finished. I looked around and so had everyone else. Darn! I thought we had this one. Where did we finish? It was close. On both occasions our team, Sea View, came in a close second only two-and-a-half seconds behind the winner. Not bad going. Not bad at all. AND I learned a foreign language. All in a day's work!

Watch the three minute Clearwater boot camp report on www.royalgazette.com.

Grin and bear it: David Skinner (left) and his teammates carry a heavy telephone pole around Police Field.
Despite pouring rain 100 Day Challenge participants take part in riot training with the PSU at Police Field in Devonshire early Saturday morning.