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Home Secretary opens new tri-force police specialist training centre

Black Rock Official Opening

The Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, officially opened the new Black Rock Specialist Training Centre in Portishead today. The facility provides firearms and specialist public order training for over three hundred firearms officers from Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Police Force each year.

The creation of a single firearms training centre is part of the wider Tri Force collaboration to improve interoperability and resilience across force boundaries. Officers train together with a single, consistent approach to tactics and use of weapons, in line with the national College of Policing training framework.

The Tri Force collaboration between the Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire forces provides specialist operational services including firearms, roads policing, collision investigation and dogs.  In April 2014 officers from the three forces came together to create a borderless specialist policing team enabling the maintenance of key strategic policing requirement (SPR) capabilities at lower cost, resulting in savings of £3.5 million.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “There is a proud tradition in the United Kingdom that police officers do not generally carry firearms as they go about their very important work.  However, as events in recent weeks have shown, when an operational need arises, specialist armed officers must be available for deployment.  I want to pay tribute to these highly-trained, brave men and women who frequently put themselves in dangerous situations in order to keep the public safe. 

“I am delighted to open this training facility today.  It will help maintain the very high standards that we expect of our firearms officers and equip them with the skills they need to protect the communities they serve.

“This is another example of how good police forces are collaborating with one another to make savings, pool resources and deliver more efficient local policing.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “It’s fantastic to finally be able to officially open this state-of-the-art training facility needed now more than ever. It has been a long journey not without its difficulties, however today demonstrates our commitment to work closely with our neighbouring police forces of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and our duty to keep our communities safe by providing specialist policing resources which are borderless, modern and better value for money. Today marks an exciting chapter in the Tri-force collaboration and I would like to thank the Home Secretary for officially opening Black Rock and my fellow Police and Crime Commissioner’s on their commitment to work together to serve the best interests of our communities.”

Avon and Somerset T/Chief Constable Gareth Morgan said: “I very pleased that the Home Secretary has been able to see first-hand the benefits that the public and Avon and Somerset Constabulary are gaining from our collaboration with Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. The ongoing discussions about police firearms capability and capacity in the light of the terrorist threat provide the backdrop to today’s visit and provide a compelling context within which to see how these training facilities are supporting the requirement to provide the best trained officers and staff. The Black Rock Specialist Training Centre is an outstanding facility and represents an exciting step in our collaboration in support of the operational teams operating across the three forces, ensuring our communities are kept safe.”

The Black Rock Specialist Training Centre offers multi-disciplined training under one roof training officers in police firearms tactics from initial training through to specialist police firearms tactics. The facilities include a tactics enclosure (complete with 2 semi-detached multiple layout houses and abseiling training area), two judgemental suites and 100m and 50m firing ranges all linked by CCTV to enable one scenario played out in different locations as well as operating independently. The new interactive target systems allow real time events to be fed into the ranges for live shoot activities and judgemental testing of officers.

The centre is part of a wider PFI programme which also includes three state of the art police and custody centres for Avon and Somerset Police. The opening of Black Rock was planned for 2014 alongside the police and custody centres but a domestic extremism related arson attack in August 2013 caused extensive damage to the building, which was in the final stages of construction.  Construction began once more in 2014 and the centre opened in July 2015 with the full operational training programme beginning in early August.

Posted on Thursday 26th November 2015
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