'Give all officers the option not to retire yet'
Senior inspectors to be asked to stay on for 90 days, but unions ask: what about the others?
All police officers set to retire between now and next March should be given the chance to keep working for another 90 days, says the head of one of the police force unions.
Four police staff associations were told by police management yesterday that senior inspectors due to retire this financial year had been asked to delay leaving by 90 days to meet a manpower gap of about 20 inspectors.
Officials told the associations at a briefing that the move was not related to operational considerations for Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement planned for next summer.
Rather, the 90-day extension - covered by the Civil Service Regulations - was to address a short-term staffing gap created by an aggressive recruitment drive some 30 years ago.
Joe Chan Cho-kwong, chairman of the Junior Police Officers' Association which has about 22,000 members, asked officers from the police human resources branch to extend the extension offer to all retiring officers to ensure fairness.
"We suggest that this 90-day policy should apply to all ranks - not only the inspectors - because of transparency and equal opportunities," he said.
Chan said the association was surprised by the move "because it was quite sudden" but he was confident that the 90-day extension was not related to the mass protests planned for next July.
"Thirty years ago, the police force was expanding so you can imagine 30 years later, there will be many officers retiring in the same year; that's why it creates more vacancies in one particular year," Chan said.
It is expected that only 160 of 180 new inspector positions will be filled, leaving a shortfall of about 20.
Chief Superintendent Peter Cornthwaite, chairman of the Superintendents' Association, said the temporary scheme was a smart move.
"As far as flexibility is concerned, this is a good initiative," he said.
"We support individual choice and we welcome this scheme. Of course, every bit helps and the major impact is that somebody doesn't have to cover two jobs."
A police spokesman said about 150 probationary inspectors were currently undergoing foundation training at the police college.
He said the 90-day extension was open to all ranks subject to operational needs that cannot be met immediately by recruitment, promotion and acting appointments.
The Inspectors' Association and the Overseas Inspectors' Association were also at yesterday's briefing.
As of July 1, the police force had 1,766 posts of inspector and senior inspector rank, of which 1,696 were filled.