Police chief warns officers of dangers of gaining 'face'

Officers told in memo that old way of doing things is no longer OK, in light of disgraced commander who accepted discounts and whisky

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 4:06am

Gaining some "face" isn't worth your job, your pension and a jail term.

That's the message the police force has sent to its members after the jailing of former Wan Chai divisional commander Titus Wong Koon-ho for receiving discounts and whisky from a restaurant.

"Times have changed and 'face' … is certainly not worth the price we may need to pay," Chief Superintendent Evelyn Lam Man-sai said in a letter to officers.

The internal memo from Lam, of the force's complaints and internal investigations branch, was sent on June 7 after Wong, 51, a HK$90,000-a-month veteran, was jailed for a year for receiving discounts and whisky worth HK$5,500 from a Causeway Bay restaurant in exchange for turning a blind eye to it serving alcohol without a licence. Wong, responsible for advising the Liquor Licensing Board on whether to grant licences, fell foul of a once common practice of giving "face" or dignity to police with gifts and discounts.

Lam asked formation commanders to remind their officers to "avoid any acceptance of favours/gifts or discounts of any kind when the offer was made due to their position in the police, or when it could be perceived by others as a conflict of interest". "Although we certainly do not condone accepting favours/advantages out of greed, needless to say we must remind our officers that times have changed and 'face' … is certainly not worth the price we may need to pay," Lam added.

She asked commanders to "remind your officers of lessons learnt from this case", adding that the force would continue to reach out to officers at all levels with messages to prevent them from falling prey to temptation.

Junior Police Officers' Association chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong said such warnings were necessary to remind officers regularly to take into account whether a situation involved conflict of interest.

A police spokeswoman said: "Police never tolerate corrupt practices or other misconduct that hampers public confidence in the force."

She said a set of guidelines had been developed that required officers to avoid conflict of interest and not abuse their position in their official dealings.

"The force will continue to use various means to disseminate key messages and instructions to frontline officers," she said.

Magistrate Adriana Tse accused Wong of telling lies in court. She said Wong had brought shame on the police force and his fall from grace was entirely of his own making.

Tse said she suspected that Wong's team, which vetted liquor licence applications, was involved in misconduct and asked the Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate.

Yesterday, the ICAC said it was studying the judgment and would seek legal advice.