Armed offenders squad 'doesn’t appeal to a lot of women'

Constable Jess Lacy in her armed offenders squad kit. PHOTO: GREYMOUTH STAR
Constable Jess Lacy in her armed offenders squad kit. PHOTO: GREYMOUTH STAR
Tasers, pepper spray, gas masks and firearms are daily tools of the trade for Greymouth 24-year-old Jess Lacy.

Hers is no ordinary job —she is one of only a few female members of the armed offenders squad (AOS).

Constable Lacy has been in the AOS for nearly a year, in a field that is still dominated by men; of more than 300 AOS members nationally, only about 18 are women.

‘‘It doesn’t appeal to a lot of women —you hear some horror stories about the selection process rigours,’’ she said.

Const Lacy graduated from Police College before her 20th birthday and Greymouth is the fourth police station she has worked in, after arriving from Waikato two and a-half years ago.

Selection for the AOS is extremely taxing on hopefuls. A one-day ‘‘district selection’’ in Blenheim whittles the number of applicants down to the next stage, held in Wellington, a gruelling feat of endurance that allows the candidates just four hours sleep over three days.

‘‘It’s a nice feeling knowing you’ve passed, but you are physically wrecked.

‘‘A lot of the training focuses on scenarios and decisions being made under pressure and fatigue, to ensure you can still make good decisions, clearing areas and correctly identifying threats. By the end of three days, with no sleep and physical fatigue, they want to make sure your brain is still processing.’’

Those who qualified from this point were then put through a four-week training course where their skills were honed and tested.

‘‘It’s about resilience,’’ she said.

Some of the training demands include the Pack March —22km in ‘‘sections’’ of six individuals, carrying their 20kg kit bags at a maintained pace of 6.5kmh. The six had another 20kg bag that was shared among them all during the exercise. Distance markers ensured the sections made their time targets.

‘‘The hardest part was holding that pace uphill too — it was Porirua, so there were a couple of big hills there.’’

Of her move to the West Coast she said: ‘‘It’s different, but it’s got it’s own challenges. There are less staff and a bigger area.’’

She arrived with partner Damien O’Kane, fellow police officer, dog handler and AOS member.

‘‘I always knew I wanted to be a cop — it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,’’ she said. 

 - Meg Fulford

 

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