25 Oct
25 October 2018

Manfeild tops with police training

AN environment dedicated to motorsport prowess is also being credited with elevating the skills of guardians of our roads.

Incredibly, the Manfeild Park facility in Feilding is heading toward clocking half a century of continuous association with New Zealand Police driver training.

A programme that brings police vehicles and staff to Circuit Chris Amon on an almost weekly basis is celebrated as a core activity that conforms comfortably with the facility’s emergent National Driver Training Centre speciality, says chief executive Julie Keane.

“One strong reinforcement of our belief that Manfeild Park should and will be the centre of a driving tuition process that presently sharpens the skills of student novices is that it has been home for more than four decades for the Police Driver Training,” she says.

“The Police are our oldest and most enduring client for track usage – that they have always considered Manfeild unsurpassed for their specific requirements is a great tribute.”

Thousands of serving police, from street cops to the commissioner, have experienced the facility and come away as better drivers says an instructor who, remarkably, involved in the very first year, 1975, and is still clocking laps at age 69.

Les Jardine notes the cars and the training timeframe have changed considerably over the years.

When he started the Holden Kingswood was the patrol car of choice and recruits were required to spend two weeks on track. Now the programme spans eight days and involves latest Holden Commodores with technology that would have seemed sci-fi back then.

Unaltered through all the years is a core requirement to engender skillsets invaluable to difficult and often stressful front-line expectations.

The Police Driver Programme spans hazard perception and awareness, skid management, advanced driving techniques, crash scene management, communications use while driving, vehicle stop tactics and tactical pursuit situations.

Some initial training into understanding vehicle assistance systems is undertaken on a small circuit at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua, but Manfeild is always where the big tests are undertaken.

“Manfeild is a vital part,” Mr Jardine says. “A half day there is worth at least three days’ roadwork.”

Nowhere else can police trainees experience vehicle management and control above public road speed limits, he adds.

The NZ programme started at a time when Police did not have the road patrol duties they undertake now; back then that was the job of the Ministry of Transport, which subsumed into Police in 1992.

“The Transport guys were receiving better (driving) training,” Mr Jardine recalls.

He was in a good position to judge. A graduate of the UK force’s world-class Hendon driving school, his interest in emigrating to NZ rose all the more on hearing the NZ Police were seeking driver trainers. That’s how he found himself at Manfeild, barely two years on from the circuit’s opening.

The circuit layout then was as it is now; but the facilities were without any of the modern comforts and amenities now on offer. Yet right away he could see the benefit of a location that allowed for safe, secluded tuition away from the public arena.

Then, as now, the primary impetus was to impress the basics of better car control.

“Good steering practices, good braking practices, looking well ahead … basics that make a huge difference.”

In the 1970s’ this was a remedial exercise. “A lot of those sent to us had been in a crash and were sent to learn better car control. They came in very anti and left converted.”

Now, of course, it’s about ensuring the skillsets exist from the start. Recruits must achieve a silver driver classification, which allows them to conduct all driving duties apart from pursuits, unless supervised by a Gold classified instructed driver or in exceptional circumstances.

Introduction of antiskid brakes, traction and stability controls have made the cars easier to manage and, of course, the modern safety amenities have improved occupant wellbeing, yet as always the idea is that better skills make are the best protection.

“Cars are made to be driven properly. Sadly, not enough people know how to. Police are taught to drive them properly.”


Manfeild police image 1.jpg

Caption (for Police1 image): Driver Training Supervisor Sergeant Janine O’Connor (left), driver trainer Les Jardine and Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane with the Police Museum’s Holden Kingswood patrol car, the frontline choice when police driver training kicked off at Manfeild in 1975.

Manfeild Police image 2.jpg

Caption (for Police2 image): Police Driver Trainer Les Jardine with an image of himself and his first patrol car, a Holden Kingswood, taken in 1975, the year the service began its driver training programme at Manfeild.