Belfast Telegraph

Officers train carefully for high-stakes operations like this, says ex-PSNI chief

By Gillian Halliday

Former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Alan McQuillan said the officers involved in Thursday evening's high-stakes operation would have drawn on all of their expertise to ensure it went according to "textbook".

Giving an insider's perspective, he stressed that careful preparations are made ahead of such operations - which are then carried out within a framed "scaled response" approach, with only the "minimum amount of force" implemented at each stage of the operation as required.

"They spend hours training for this and it's a very challenging situation for police officers because you don't know what the individuals concerned are going to do." The response is only gradually escalated, he added, if it is deemed necessary that a Taser or pepper spray is used in the event, for example, of non compliance or weapons - such as a firearm - are suspected to be in possession of suspects.

Lethal force, he said, could be used in the event of a gun being pulled out.

"It's extremely stressful for everybody, for the officers, but they train, train and train for this," he continued.

Mr McQuillan explained that while operations such as Thursday night's are not common, the officers - who follow national policing policies and standards - are well prepared to deal with the pressures, including making lightning-quick decisions and manage the immense stress involved.

"When they do happen, it's great to see them done in that way," added the former senior officer.

"The officers are trained about how to judge the escalation in simulations to prepare for various scenarios.

"The reality is that when you're out there every scenario is different."

He said officers will experience adrenalin kicking in ahead of such intense operations, but officers are experienced to manage it.

"When adrenalin kicks in, it can be a good thing, properly controlled but it can also be a bad thing, it pushes you to make the wrong decision, but the officers are trained to manage it," he said.

Mr McQuillan added that each stage of an operation will be executed carefully, with all potential threats thought through.

Referring to this specific incident, he said: "You have the vehicle and how it's stopped and then you have the vehicle, which still presents as a threat, as well as the people inside in it.

"You also have to consider the safety of other members of the public.

"They have to choose the time to stop and how it stop the vehicle."

He added: "Ultimately it comes down to the fact that you have individual officers facing people who may be armed and they sometimes have to make the decision to try and recognise the rights of that person, but also protect the public, themselves and their colleagues. It's not easy.

"Thankfully we have these young men and women who are able, willing and capable to do this sort of work on our behalf."

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