Police complaints to get easier
Simpson Cheung and Ng Kang-chung
Members of the public can now choose to have grievances about misbehaviour by police officers settled more quickly under a new, less formal, complaints mechanism.
The 'expression of dissatisfaction' scheme, launched recently, allows people to complain about minor misconduct at a police station or to the Complaints Against Police Office (Capo), the force's internal complaint-investigation unit.
But instead of launching a formal investigation, an 'expression of dissatisfaction' will be handed on by Capo to the commander of the officer concerned, who will then remind the officer about his or her behaviour
Capo will be made aware of all cases, and will step in to investigate serious cases. Complaints under the new system will be settled more quickly and will allow Capo and the Independent Police Complaints Council to focus on serious misconduct. Capo centralised the investigation of complaints last year - minor complaints were previously handled at district-level police stations - and has faced criticism over how long investigations take to conclude.
Chief Superintendent Duncan McCosh of the police's complaints and internal investigations branch, said the scheme would offer an effective way for people to air grievances.
'There are a lot of people that don't want a formal investigation ... They just want to have their say,' he said. McCosh said officers who were the subject of complaints would be given a chance to defend themselves.
The IPCC will be given basic details of all cases.
Almost 80 per cent of complaints to Capo are about minor matters.
Lawmaker James To Kun-sun feared the new system would be used to reduce the number of complaints, to make the figures look better.
McCosh said the mechanism was not intended to deter people from lodging a complaint. They can still lodge a complaint at any time after expressing dissatisfaction.
Capo has recruited 38 officers from other departments, increasing the number of investigating teams from 10 to 13, in an attempt to speed up the investigation process. It has a target of four months for the completion of each investigation.
Capo centralised the investigation system last year in an attempt to speed up the complaints process.
'As we get more used to the centralised process and streamlining initiatives, maybe we can reduce the [four-month-service] pledge and kill everything in one or two months,' McCosh said.
IPCC members, who discussed the new system last year said care would have to be taken so that the public would not see the new system as a barrier to making formal complaints. It will be tested in an initial six-month pilot scheme.
The number of complaints received by Capo in the first two months of this year, a 23.9 per cent drop from 456 in the same period last year