Focus on preventing misconduct to cut complaints against police

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 June, 2009, 12:00am

The watchdog that monitors police complaints favours more co-operation with police to improve officers' service to the public, chairman Jat Sew-tong says.

The senior counsel, who became chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council a year ago, said he would rather have fewer complaints than more.

'The better the police perform, the fewer complaints we will receive,' he said. 'More prevention [of police misconduct] will be undertaken in future and from that perspective, the IPCC and police share a co-operative relationship.

'In the past year, since I assumed the post, we have maintained a good relationship with police. Of course, we still take the role of monitoring' the handling of police complaints.

His approach is a sharp contrast to that of his predecessor, Ronny Wong Fook-hum, who criticised police for taking advantage of the complaints mechanism to avoid being held responsible. Mr Wong said making the council a statutory body would make it 'an instrument being used to protect the police'.

The watchdog will still lack the power to carry out investigations or impose penalties.

Mr Jat said it was not up to the body to comment on its own powers, while pledging that the council would make use of all the powers given to it by the new IPCC Ordinance to monitor police complaints.

'I hope the public will understand that this council is [part of the police complaints mechanism] that different parties have accepted,' he said.

'To me, it is too early to comment on the system. It will be a drastic change in the structure if we have the power to investigate or to lay down penalties. Overseas experiences have suggested that it may not be the best option for outsiders to probe police complaints.'

Mr Jat said the powers of the council had been widened and codified.