Example needed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 October, 1995, 12:00am

RECENT months have seen an upsurge of police corruption. There has also been simple foolishness: about 60 officers are said to have taken cash to be photographed in various stages of undress.

Our analysis on the facing page shows the extent of alleged misdeeds. Such behaviour makes the police more susceptible to blackmail and corruption while undermining the reputation of the force. All this seems to indicate a decline in standards which must be addressed before it becomes unstoppable.

Yet unless this is the tip of a much larger iceberg than the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the top levels of the police admit even to themselves, we are still a long way from the bad old days of endemic corruption.

Inevitably, even the cleanest police force will underestimate corruption and moonlighting in its ranks. Some activities will be so much part of the culture that they are no longer seen as wrong. But the belief that criminal behaviour is restricted to relatively few bad apples has some credibility, precisely because force culture has changed. Corruption was worse two decades ago because it was condoned and sometimes actively encouraged. Now it is seen for the evil it is.

Police salaries and perks have become relatively attractive. But there will always be some officers who want to supplement their incomes. The current near-total ban on part-time jobs is said to drive them to moonlight illegally. Allowing certain specified types of off-duty employment could reduce the attractions of illegal work.

But Police Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on must make it clear that slipping standards will no longer be tolerated. A thorough rooting out of corruption can only be achieved by education and discipline. Senior officers too weak to enforce discipline must be removed. Tainted policemen must be prosecuted and sacked whatever their rank.

Above all, there must be no relaxation of control if the police are to go into 1997 with the morale and reputation to set an example to society, not lead it into decay.