The town where boys in blue can have a riot of a time

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STANDING in front of his local pub and post office, a man seen brandishing a knife is subdued by two West Yorkshire Police officers, one of whom uses a Taser to bring him to the ground.

It’s a scenario that would concern and alarm passers-by in real life, but this incident is a practice run using a less powerful training Taser and a bodysuit for the knife-wielding man as part of an exercise to put officers through their paces.

West Yorkshire Police's new state-of-the-art training facilities at Carr Gate, Wakefield

West Yorkshire Police's new state-of-the-art training facilities at Carr Gate, Wakefield

And now, thanks to the creation of a state-of-the-art facility just off Junction 41 of the M1 near Wakefield, training exercises like this take place in a vast warehouse-style arena set up to recreate the challenges officers will face while maintaining public order in the county.

The public order training base, three times bigger than its predecessor in Morley, has a replica pub, shops, a town square and even a section of football stadium-style seating where police can practise crowd control.

In the first official media tour at the new Carr Gate training complex, The Yorkshire Post was given an insight into the new sites that senior officers say are a rival for anything available in this country and across the world.

Funded by a £216m Public Finance Initiative project, which has already seen new divisional headquarters built at Normanton and Elland Road, Leeds, it has been constructed on land near the force’s existing Specialist Operations HQ.

As well as the public order base, the most notable additions are three firearms ranges and a specialist live fire skills house, alongside an advanced driver manoeuvring area replacing the old skid pan at Crofton, near Wakefield.

The creation of the new base comes despite West Yorkshire Police cutting the number of buildings it uses. Chief Superintendent Barry South, who has helped oversee the project, said it would replace old sites that were costly to repair and maintain.

He said: “Our Chief Constable and police and crime commissioner, their ambition is to make West Yorkshire Police a world-class policing service, so to do that you have got to put the right foundations in place, and part of that is a facility that enables you to be trained to that level. We have got a facility now that makes sure when we put people out there into our local communities, with the ambition of making them safer, that we are training them to a level we know they can be trained to, in facilities where we can do it quicker now.

“We would previously spend weeks and weeks trying to train them through those kinds of scenarios, whereas with the new technology we can do it in days, sometimes within hours. Whilst it gives us a state-of-the-art facility for training, it also is really efficient in terms of cost.”

Unlike the old facility, where training could become repetitive, the new site allows for combinations of challenges to test officers. According to Sergeant Jayne Addy, a public order training officer: “Compared to what we had before this place is absolutely amazing.”

Sgt Tom Butler, who leads the training, said: “At the ranges, police specialists use live fire to practise on 100m and 50m ranges, which can operate in day or night-time settings and even accommodate cars. The skills are vital.”