Complaints watchdog tells public to record rows with police

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 4:00am

If you get into a verbal confrontation with police, record it.

That's the advice of the police complaints watchdog after the introduction of new guidelines on how officers should handle rows with the public.

But it is unknown if the new rules are binding, or if there will be penalties for officers who fail to abide by them, as the full details have not been made public. As such, people will have no way of knowing whether an officer has complied with them or not.

The Independent Police Complaints Council said yesterday it would help investigations of complaints against officers if those involved had audio or video recordings of what happened.

"Be it voice recording or video clips, any objective evidence would be very useful reference materials," council secretary general Ricky Chu Man-kin (pictured) said.

But he said the complaints body would not rely solely on video or audio recordings to decide if complaints were legitimate. The council would take into account statements from witnesses and the overall context of incidents, he said.

The new guidelines - in force since March 12 - instruct officers to tell anyone insulting them to stop. Police should then warn the person that they may be arrested before making an arrest if the insults do not stop.

The guidelines were prepared amid debate over how far police should tolerate verbal abuse with foul language, after teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze was filmed swearing at police last year.

But only the broad principles have been made public, not the full version - which even the IPCC has not seen. Pan-democrats said the public had no way of knowing if officers had abided by the rules. Police say officers have not been given any new powers by the guidelines.

Regarding the police shooting of a 21-year-old who threatened his wife and others with a paper cutter on Monday, Chu said that by yesterday morning no complaints had been received about how officers handled the incident, according to police.

Police received 12 complaints about the use of pepper spray in a protest on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a University of Hong Kong survey that the police watchdog commissioned found that only 40 per cent of the public could correctly name at least one of its functions, down 9 percentage points from last year.

Almost half of the 1,039 respondents mistakenly thought that "monitoring police behaviour or conduct" was one of the police watchdog's duties. In fact, the watchdog is responsible for monitoring investigations by the Complaints Against Police Office.