Reduced firepower 'puts police at risk'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 1995, 12:00am

MARINE Police launches will be less effective and officers exposed to a greater risk if plans to reduce firepower on board vessels are implemented, according to police sources.

Marine Police have begun changing the arsenal they carry on each of its patrolcraft as part of a wide-ranging review of firepower understood to advocate an overall reduction in arms.

The old Sterling sub-machinegun has already been replaced by the modern MP-5 on all police patrol launches and most harbour launches.

More than 600 officers have been trained in the use of the new weapon introduced as part of the ongoing arms review by the Firearms Policy Committee.

The new weapon is safer and more accurate.

Police have confirmed the change to the MP-5 as well as scrapping the powerful Browning machine-gun, which has a range of more than 10 kilometres.

One of the two types of shotguns also carried has been scrapped because it was traditionally needed for internal security matters, in which Marine Police are no longer involved.

It is also understood the number of M16 sub-machineguns is to be reduced as well as the number of Smith and Wesson .38 revolvers - carried by some of the crew.

Sources said most officers accepted scrapping the Browning because it was now considered too powerful to use in Hong Kong's congested waterways.

But they were concerned overall reductions in firepower had become a political rather than operational issue, especially after the hijacking in March of a Hong Kong vessel in territorial waters by Chinese security forces.

'The chances of a confrontation would be the same with fewer weapons, but the chances of the police getting fully involved would be reduced,' a police source said.

'Some of the guys out in the boats feel they would be more vulnerable.' Marine Region Deputy Regional Commander John Hui Chiu-yin said the Firearms Policy Committee was due to meet next Friday and no decisions on the firepower question had yet been reached.

Last year, Marine Police officer Kwong Sze-wing was sent to a psychiatric centre for two years after sparking a massive police hunt when he walked out of an armoury with a sub-machinegun, two revolvers and 400 rounds of ammunition.