PC thrilled after landing dream role in firearms unit
Hungry for a challenge, PC Leah Madhani decided she’d train to become a firearms officer.
She considered it a win-win situation. If she passed, a dream role as an authorised firearms officer awaited her. If she didn’t, at least she would have learnt about one of policing’s most adrenaline-packed roles.
Prior to enrolling on the gruelling 13-week course, Leah was part of a response team at Radford Road Police Station, providing frontline response to a wide range of 999 incidents.
However, even the complex and confrontational situations she faced on a daily basis could not prepare her for what was to come. Indeed, such is the difficulty of the firearms training programme, the national pass rate is only 40-50%.
Nottinghamshire Police runs the programme on an annual basis and this year 12 officers took part. Six passed – including Leah.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Leah said. “Physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically – it was intense. But you invest everything in the hope of achieving a positive outcome.”
Leah joined Nottinghamshire Police in 2019 and had her eye on the force’s armed policing unit from day one.
She said: “I wanted a challenge – something that would push me, was a bit more task-focused and involved planning. I was always interested in the more specialist roles, like the dogs unit, Tactical Support Group and all the new specialisms such as the knife crime and Reacher teams.
“However, firearms was always the one that sparked my interest the most. When I was working in response and a firearms job came in, I always wanted to go to it.”
The training began in April and Leah explained what it entailed.
“You start every day at HQ, but then you go all over the county to different venues. All the training is different – there’s all sorts of different tactics you’ve got to learn about and how to search different types of buildings and venues.
“We were deployed to all sorts of places, from up to Ollerton, into Leicestershire, the Welbeck estate – everywhere.
“It is a challenging course and elements of it are enjoyable. There are times when you can have fun but there are also times when you’ve really got to get your head down, concentrate and be 100% focused.
“That said, along the way we had so much fun. We had a great group of people who all got along really well. That in itself was a massive boost to us all.”
During the course, the cohort were trained in weapon handling, shooting, less lethal options and tactics. In scenario-based training, officers were required to demonstrate critical decision-making in a pressured timeframe.
Leah said: “The shooting element is actually a minor element of the course. Everyone thinks that’s the main bit but over the 13 weeks you do a week on the pistol and a week on the carbine – the rest is pretty much tactical. There’s a week on enhanced first aid – that was hard but really good to learn. Then you move onto different tactics such as foot tactics, vehicle tactics, building tactics, open area tactics.
“In one scenario we were out in the countryside in the middle of nowhere and had to look for a suspect. For me, that tactic was one of the harder elements of the course to pick up.”
It certainly isn’t a training programme for the light-hearted but Leah said it was an incredible experience. “The whole course is a rollercoaster,” she said. “You’re up and you’re down. Then you’re up again and then down even lower than you were last time. But that’s OK as long as you learn from those mistakes. The trainers constantly said to us, ‘it’s fine to make mistakes but you’ve got to learn from them’.
“I made loads of mistakes. But when I got past them and did things right the next time, the feeling was incredible.”
Having passed the course, Leah is now urging other female police officers to consider applying for firearms unit.
She said: “Gender certainly isn’t a barrier – two of the six who passed the training are female including myself.
“I understand why some female officers might not think they would make it as a firearms officer but they should give it a go.
“In the past, the department has been considered as being male dominant, but we’ve now got seven females in the department and it’d be great to see that number grow even further.
“I doubted whether I’d fit in – but it didn’t stop me wanting to prove that I could do it. I might not be as strong as some of the male officers, but I do keep myself fit.
“If you want to do it, go for it. You don’t have to be a body builder or the next ironman. As long as you’re fit, there’s no reason at all why you can’t join the department.”