Reports against police up 60pc

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am

A police complaints watchdog is looking into ways to prevent abuse of the system after a nearly 60 per cent rise in reports against officers last year, many of which were deemed unnecessary or too minor.

Police yesterday told the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) that a total of 4,257 complaints were received last year, up from 2,672 the previous year. Of those, 80 per cent were minor cases concerning misconduct or neglect of duties, while the remaining 20 per cent were more serious allegations, such as assault.

Council chairman Jat Sew-tong would not comment on the trend, but noted more resources would be needed to review the rising number of complaints.

The watchdog, which does not have investigative power by law, is responsible for reviewing cases investigated by the Complaints Against Police Office (Capo).

In 2008, the IPCC reviewed 4,523 complaints, but only 11 per cent were substantiated.

Jat said a new working group, comprising three members of the watchdog and also police representatives, had been set up to study the complaints system.

'Every system can be exploited or abused and now we see many complaints are so minor that we should not waste effort on them,' he said. 'We should focus on the serious allegations.'

Chief Superintendent Fan Sik-ming, who heads Capo, said minor complaints rose 93 per cent last year, explaining the higher total for 2009.

'The increase in minor complaints also reflects growing public expectations of the force,' Fan said. 'The new statutory IPCC established last June also boosts public confidence in the complaints system.'

Fan said a breakdown of surveillance cameras in police stations had caused problems in the investigation of 11 complaints since April 2008.

The problem prompted the force to upgrade its surveillance systems, and new recording facilities will be available in all 57 police stations by April.

Fan said the new facilities would be used solely for security purposes. But Eric Cheung Tat-ming, an IPCC member, said the police might consider using surveillance footage to aid formal complaint investigations. 'It could save us a lot of effort to decide which side is telling the truth as the complainants and the officers always give contradictory testimonies when we review the cases,' he said.