More pay sought for elite officers
RECRUITMENT problems in the police's elite counter-terrorist group - the Special Duties Unit - has prompted force chiefs to push for higher wages for junior officers.
Because of regular manpower shortages it is being proposed that officers in the unit - known as the Flying Tigers - who enter at constable rank should be paid a sergeant's wages. This would mean monthly rises of between $4,000 and $5,000, in addition to special monthly allowances of up to about $1,500 to reflect the onerous nature of duties.
On present scales, constables earn between $11,240 and $16,105, depending on their length of service. Police sergeants are paid between $16,575 and $20,115.
It is not being proposed that constables would be promoted. Rather, they would have their pay boosted during their time at the unit, which is for an unlimited time if they can maintain fitness and general performance.
The proposals to add to the attractions of the unit, one of the toughest and most secretive of squads, are contained in one of 42 study team reports which recommend ways to improve policing services, conditions and policy in the years stretching beyond 2000.
However, despite winning approval in principle from the Security Branch, the proposals face scrutiny on Monday.
This is when the Legislative Council's security panel will be briefed on the three-year study, which started with an overview of operations by private consultants Coopers and Lybrand.
The Commander of Counter-Terrorism and Internal Security in Operations Wing, Superintendent Peter Dyson, said the proposals were aimed at improving the unit's appeal.
'There has been a problem with getting the right number of officers in the past and we are hoping this will solve this problem,' he said.
'We only recruit once a year and if we don't get the numbers, it does cause a shortfall.
'What we won't do is lower standards to get the number of people required.' This month, a seminar will be held for those considering an attachment to the unit, formed in 1974.
Officers can then decide whether they want to take part in a two-week selection exercise in September prior to final tests in October.
Outstanding fitness is one of the major prerequisites for entry.
For security reasons, police never divulge the number of officers in the unit.
Last Saturday, Secretary for Security Peter Lai Hing-ling confirmed that controversial police proposals to expand by 2,200 sworn officers had been approved, ensuring that in the next few years the establishment would rise to beyond 30,000 officers.
The Special Duties Unit paper is one of the papers likely to be discussed at Monday's panel meeting.
The proposals need to be approved by the Legislative Council and also need funding.
Also contained in the reports are proposals to improve the status of and conditions for officers attached to the Police Tactical Unit, the roving cadre assigned to internal security and border patrols.
Extra sergeant posts will be created soon to improve supervision on the beat and raise the career prospects of junior officers.