Police National Commissioner Bheki Cele Friday commissioned two new Tactical Response Teams (TRT), one for Johannesburg and the second for Durban.
Cele commissioned the pilot team, for Pretoria, on October 1 and at the time promised a TRT for each of the greater metropolitan areas (Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban) before the end of December and then, over the long term for all other policing clusters of between five and seven police stations nationwide.
The TRTs are equipped and trained to deal with medium to high security risk crime fighting situations at station and cluster level, such as responding to vehicle hijacking, house robbery and the like.
“I have constantly expressed my ambitions to having higher and more permanent interventions on the ground to deal with the more serious criminal situations and these aspirations are bearing fruit,” said Cele at a ceremony at the police college in Pretoria West.
“Today you have witnessed the graduation of the Durban and Johannesburg teams and my having the pleasure to further capacitate them sustainably with specialised equipment”, he added.
Spokeswoman Assistant Commissioner Nonkululeko Mbatha said training is at the same level as the National Intervention Unit, an elite unit that responds to medium and high security risk situations on a national basis. The police Special Task Force deals with very high risk incidents, including those involving terrorists and heavily armed cash-in-transit robbers.
While the primary function will be crime combating through well planned intelligence driven operations, a secondary function will be to restore public order (crowd management).
“Additional functions will include escorting dangerous criminals, providing tactical assistance to other units within the cluster, policing of sporting events and support during disaster and incident management.”
Mbatha says these teams, “with a minimum of 50 members per cluster, are being capacitated with knowledge, skills, and specialised equipment to effectively deal with these … demands. The knowledge and skills is being acquired through intensive and specialised rural and urban eight to 10 week training.
“The tasks at hand are of a very demanding nature, therefore, a very strict selection process in encouraged here. The intensity of the training is depicted in the number of police that actually pas the training programme. Between 120 and 140 members apply to be in this unit and ultimately only a 40 actually make the training.
“Nominees must be no older than 40 years, possess physical ability and physical fitness, to be assessed similar to the battery of tests which are generally administered to new recruits and members must be prepared to be deployed within the province and externally.
“Thus far, for the three clusters (Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg) 120 (40 per cluster) have successfully completed the training programme and are being deployed,” Mbatha said.
The NIU-style training includes a weapons phase, urban phase, rural phase, operational simulations, unarmed combat (every day during training) and advanced crowd management.
For the leader group there is platoon commander training for section and platoon leaders focussing on command and control skills, as well as operational commander training for the unit commander and deputy focussing on operational planning and managing of medium risk policing operations.
This last module adds an additional two weeks to the training, taking it to 10 weeks.
Pic: A NIU commando seen during a World Cup preparation exercise in February