• Thu
  • Aug 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:28pm
NewsHong Kong

Should police firearms rules be made public in wake of fatal shooting?

Fewer than half the chapters of guidelines for officers are public … with those on contentious matters like firearms kept secret

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 3:09am

Monday's fatal shooting of a man by two police officers and the use of pepper spray on protesters on Sunday has renewed a debate on whether the force should make more of its guidelines public.

The question of whether officers followed police rules when they shot 21-year-old Ho Sai-tung is the subject of an internal investigation launched after the incident on Monday. The force had also received two complaints from people not directly connected to the case, said the watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council.

But members of the public cannot make their own judgment as the relevant chapters of the Police General Orders are not available for inspection. Fewer than half the chapters are available online, while those that can be viewed may be missing sections.

So while people can find out from the force website the rules on officers' investments, gambling and even when a constable has to salute a superior officer, information on firearms is absent.

University of Hong Kong legal expert Eric Cheung Tat-ming says the city lags behind other jurisdictions on transparency of police firearms rules. He believes many reasons for keeping the rules secret are obsolete. "There were concerns in the past about whether making the guidelines public would assist criminals" by informing them of how officers would act in a given situation, Cheung said. "But this should be less of a concern today."

Media reports had given the public a fair idea of the regulations, Cheung said, and making the rules public would prevent speculation over whether they had been followed.

The question of whether police followed the rules also came up after a protest on Sunday in which pepper spray was used on protesters who wanted to deviate from their agreed route during a march against "white elephant" infrastructure projects. Police defended their actions, saying officers had stuck to the guidelines.

Icarus Wong Ho-yin, convenor of monitoring group the Civil Human Rights Front, said people would have greater trust in the force if they could decide for themselves whether rules were followed. "Police should stop reiterating the official line that rules are obeyed and instead explain in greater detail how the guidelines are enforced," Wong said.

But a veteran policeman, who declined to be named, argued the need to keep guidelines secret may still apply today. "If the guidelines on use of firearms are disclosed, criminals may exploit the rules and make it harder for policemen," he said.

A police spokesman said chapter 29 of the general orders, which sets out rules on the use of force and firearms, was not disclosed as it covered "operational matters that, if made generally available to the public, may adversely affect the police response to incidents".


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This article is now closed to comments

actually, the news had already disclosed the three guideline to shoot.
The approval of the policeman's actions by the comments below just shows how sick some of us have become, we view killing off the person as the only method in which we resolve disputes.
Yes, if it was my loved one being held hostage, then I'd like the situation resolved asap, but that doesn't mean shoot to kill, what ensures that it won't be the cop that shoots an kills the hostage by accident.
Secondly, no one can claim they have never been in an argument with their family or partner before, if we allow disputes to be resolved by shoot to kill methods, what's to stop a cop shooting and killing you if you're having an argument in public? To everyone else on the street it may be just a normal argument, to you it was just an argument, but to the cop with the gun, it was perceived as "too much of a threat"
People have to understand that cops are human too, and all of them have stable mentalities, I'm sure some cops would've handled this a bit more differently (or less lethal) compared to the cops would decided that shooting was the correct measure - what would be good is to identify the ones who aren't as mentally stable and provide them with roles/weapons that are less lethal.
Yes, we also live in one of the safest cities in the world and we should all be grateful, but there is a reason why the police force accepts people who have failed at education or schooling, they aren't really the brightest or the cream of the crop when it comes to things.
A retired officer phoned in to D100 and pointed out several errors made by the commanding officer at the scene.
If the police drew their pistols, the place must be cordoned off to prevent any other people from entering. The fact that the man's wife showed up probably aggravated the already emotional man, and made things worse.
The commanding officer cannot draw his gun because he has to be overseeing things.
There were 5 officers (1 female 4 male), and they should have been able to subdue the man without the use of firearms.
OC spray would have taken him down immediately & still alive .....
3 million Scoville Units capsaicin equivalent to 15 times stronger than neat Habanero pepper seeds rubbed into your face, eyes, nose, mouth
Immediate blindness - cannot stab what you cannot see - immediate reaction to cover face with hands
Nostrils & eyes immediately swell & close
Have to breathe through mouth alone
Hard to breathe have to sit down
Still alive, under arrest
If someone was holding a box cutter against your loved one's neck, and in one split second could slash their throats, I think you would want the police to take swift action. Who says that one bullet would bring down the threat ?
The wife needs counselling after losing a husband.
Who needs more counseling, the guard who had been held at knife point or the wife who was about to be attacked by her husband?
Lucky the guard didn't get slashed, otherwise he would be six feet under or under rehab plus counseling.
At the end of the day, if a cop kills anyone there should be an inquiry. It might be a simple one or it might require deeper analysis. This is not Mainland China. The Police are accountable to the people and as such there needs to be a proper procedure to ensure that they protect and serve but also that sets for the police clear guidelines so they can do their job properly.
The HK police force is full of garbage and the ones patrolling the streets are just a bunch of wimpy men who are not even qualified to carry guns..............the thought that they would have to pull out their firearms and kill another simply because of holding a paper cutter shows how incompetent HK policemen are...........I hope no one ever uses the term "Asia's finest" to describe the HK police force again cause these guys are "Asia's most cowardly".
Get a parking ticket did you and are now upset. Poor boy!




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