Police Support Unit (UK)

Police Support Unit (UK)

A Police Support Unit or PSU is a unit of police officers who have undergone specialist training in public order policing.

Police Support Unit training in the United Kingdom is voluntary tactical training undertaken by selected candidates that provides students with the skills required to safely and effectively deal with a variety of public order situations outside the remit or capability of regular divisional officers.

PSU trained officers in the UK are commonly referred to as Level 2, Mutual Aid Trained (MAT), or PSU.

The majority of UK Forces use Mercedes Sprinter Vans, known as 'Carriers', as standard transport for PSUs. These vehicles are equipped with mesh window shields and outfitted with storage compartments for officers riot and CBRN kit. Carrier drivers must undergo specialist driver training in 'riot conditions' before qualifying as a carrier driver.

Standard kit for PSU officers consists of a transparent acrylic riot shield, a baton, a visored 'NATO' helmet, shin and elbow guards, along with fireproof coveralls when required. This level of protection allows officers to deal with a variety of violent situations, including riots, football violence and suspects armed with a variety of weapons. Some PSU teams are also dual-trained as first-line responders for CBRN incidents and carry relevant detection kit as well as major incident equipment.

PSU officers are trained to a higher standard of operational readiness than their divisional counterparts. Training exercises undertaken encompass a variety of public order scenarios; officers will undergo extensive riot training including being petrol bombed in large scale engagements, prison clearance tactics, football stadium scenarios, night club scenarios, aircraft, rail and various 'angry-man' scenarios, as well as additional specialist training. PSU units spend considerable time training with other specialist police teams as well as certain military units.

A PSU consists of:[1]


PSU grades

All officers will be trained to the common minimum standards as defined in the ACPO Public Order Tactical Trainers Manual.[2] The grades are dependent on the training that the officer has received.[3]

  • Level 1 - these officers (normally full time PSU) receive regular training which can be every five weeks receiving training in shield tactics, violent person, petrol bombing and training in house entry and search. All public order officers need to be fit; a Level 1 officer must be able to run 1000 metres, dressed in full protective equipment whilst carrying a long shield, in less than 6 minutes.
  • Level 2 - These officers are drawn from Boroughs, Divisions or Areas and some specialist units; they receive the same training as Level 1 officers but only attend twice a year for two days (or in some forces a 3 day course every 12 months). Level 2 officers must be able to run 500 metres dressed in full protective equipment whilst carrying a long shield in less than 2 mins 45 secs. If an officer fails any of the runs they are returned to their Borough/Division/Area without receiving training or qualification. The long shields the officers carry are 5'6" tall, 1'11" wide and weigh 17 lbs.
  • Level 3 - All other police officers are classed as being level 3 trained, this they will have received in their last week at training school, their training includes all foot duty cordons, and mounted branch deployments.

Full-time PSU

Most police forces maintain full-time PSU sections whose role is to provide a wide range of specialist services in addition to high visibility core policing. Forces that do not maintain a full time PSU section will have PSU trained officers in other roles (such as standard response roles) who can be called upon by a rota system.

As well as PSU they (full time units) may be called, dependent on the police force:

Core functions

The core functions of the support unit, dependent on the police force or service are:

  • Apprehension of violent/deranged people
  • Security/VIP searches
  • Military convoy escort
  • Prisoner escorts
  • Searches for missing people/evidence
  • Public order training
  • Public order response
  • Method of entry (MOE) or Door breaching
  • Public order instructors/ tactical advisors
  • Security in relation to the Terrorism Act 2000
  • Initial response to suspect explosive devices
  • Police search advisors and co-ordinators
  • Missing person search managers
  • Chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) response
  • Pool of authorised firearm officers
  • High profile, proactive, intelligence-led patrols
  • Roped access and confined-space search teams
  • Body Recovery teams

Other PSU elements

Special Constabulary

As with their full-time counterparts, some Special Constables are trained in public order duties, including policing of football matches and demonstrations. In West Yorkshire Police, 24 Specials have received Level 2 PSU - Police Support Unit training, and have become part of the 'Operation Target' team.[4] PSU Level 2 training is also available to Special Constables of Lothian & Borders Police (Scotland), British Transport Police and the Operational Support Unit (OSU) of the Metropolitan Police's TPHQ specials.

See also


External links

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