Public think police abuse power: poll

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 12:00am

Fifty per cent of people believe police officers have taken advantage of their position, a survey of the force has revealed.

The unprecedented image survey conducted by Hong Kong University on behalf of the force also found 27 per cent of the 1,547 respondents thought officers were not prudent in their private lives.

Forty-eight per cent said there were not enough police officers and nearly a quarter did not feel safe at night.

Some 74 per cent had overall confidence in the force and 62 per cent were positive about overall performance.

Robert Chung Ting-yiu, of the university's Social Sciences Research Centre, said the differences in ratings for the force and individual members might stem from the public's perception of officers' private lives.

The public are very satisfied with the performance of uniformed officers in general, but they don't seem to have a good impression of their private lives,' Dr Chung said.

He said the poor impression might be related to negative media images, including reports of debt problems.

Only 55 per cent of respondents said their perception of the force came through personal experience.

Forty-two per cent of respondents said officers 'occasionally' took unfair advantage of their position and seven per cent said they did so 'frequently'.

'They may include incidents like restaurants giving priority seating to off-duty officers,' Dr Chung said.

While the public mostly considered the force professional and efficient, just under half considered resources were used effectively.

Only 34 per cent and 23 per cent respectively said the force was accountable and transparent enough.

Senior Assistant Commissioner Lau Yuk-kuen said the force would examine the negative remarks in the survey and work out ways to make improvements.

Referring to manpower concerns, he said the number of officers had increased from 27,314 in 1994 to 28,545 last year.

Performance was rated worst in solving head-bashing robbery cases and dealing with juvenile offenders.

Mr Lau said efforts had been made in these areas, including a taskforce to fight youth crime.