Fall in women police recruits
THE number of women seeking careers in the police has dropped by 35 per cent this year at a time when force managers want to broaden the female profile in major operational functions.
Latest police figures show between January and June, 1,195 fewer women sought to join as recruit constables than in 1993.
Commissioner of Police Eddie Hui Ki-on said the sharp decline could be linked to the vexed debate on firearms.
However, he stressed fewer people generally were approaching recruitment centres as the territory's pool of police candidates fell off - mirroring the healthy establishment and retention rates.
''Overall, there are a lower number of women coming forward this year,'' Mr Hui said.
''I don't know whether it has something to do with our recent suggestion that women officers be allowed to carry pistols on duty.'' The police chief's comments come on the eve of a meeting to discuss the progress of an internal study aimed at expanding the nature of duties for the force's 3,129 women officers.
The meeting of senior commanders will examine a range of proposals, including an option to allow women into the Police Tactical Unit.
It is understood, however, a decision on arming women officers is still some months away from resolution.
This is in spite of it first being aired in 1992.
Deputy Director Personnel, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Angus Stevenson Hamilton, suggested last night the drop in women applicants could be seasonal and might mean potential recruits are waiting until October when their school-leaving results are known.
Mr Stevenson Hamilton said there were no plans to adjust the ratio of women.
''Until we resolve the issue of working duties for women police, we can't really resolve the percentage question,'' he said.
''At the moment, the feeling is that we identify what women can and can't do first.'' At July 1, there were 27,133 sworn police officers; 3,129 being women. This is about 11.5 per cent of total establishment.
Women make up 14.6 per cent of the 2,415 posts above the rank of inspector.
In the first six months of the year, slightly more women expressed interest in being directly recruited into the inspectorate.
But these figures are minimal - only 84 - when compared with the total numbers.
It is known the Government is strongly pushing the force to boost female ranks to at least 20 per cent but this is being resisted on morale grounds.
In 1992, a study was commissioned into recruitment and retention in the wake of a serious human resource problem.
It recommended consideration be given to arming women.
It was then decided to survey policemen and women on the weapons proposal - but only a ''small percentage'' of women favoured its introduction.
However, critics have argued the results are flawed as the survey was not confidential with women having to tell their commanders, usually men, of their thoughts on the matter.
Police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Eric Lockeyear, said equipping women with firearms held enormous cost, resource and training implications.
Also, if there was a voluntary system of carrying guns, there was concern the public could not tell the difference between unarmed women.
On Monday, Mr Hui revealed one of his first decisions upon assuming power had been to scrap the recruitment of expatriate inspectors. He told legislators the scheme would probably end this year.
Under current plans, the last overseas recruits will start training in early December.