Ferocity of abuse from Occupy protesters startling, police veteran says
Policeman David Jordan says protests are unlike anything he has experienced in 22 years in city
An expatriate police officer working on the front line of Occupy Central says he has never before encountered such a level of verbal abuse - including racial abuse - in 22 years of policing Hong Kong protests.
While images of police using tear gas and pepper spray have dominated international coverage, Senior Superintendent David Jordan told a different story.
"Both the ferocity and the volume of the abuse has been quite startling, actually," said Jordan, who has served as an operational commander in Admiralty.
His duties have included overseeing areas such as Lung Wo Road, outside the chief executive's office, the site of several clashes.
"I've experienced abuse unlike I've ever had in over 20 years," with insults in both Cantonese and English, Jordan, 47, said in an interview arranged by the police public relations bureau. "When we were clearing the road, the volume of abuse and almost unadulterated hatred was quite surprising when police officers are basically just carrying out their constabulary duties.
"I'm relatively thick-skinned, but what I get as a frontline commander is nothing like what frontline officers get … I just accept it and get on with it. Our endgame is to maintain public order."
Jordan, who served in Britain's Royal Navy, has worked in VIP protection, the police tactical unit, as well as managing major events like the June 4 vigil and the July 1 pro-democracy march.
He said Occupy had put an unprecedented strain on the force, but also sparked resilience.
"The bond between the experienced and the less experienced … has come together to such an extent that we almost immediately identify areas where people are not comfortable and the assistance. … It's a strength I haven't seen before."
The personal attacks are not restricted to the streets.
"I don't do Facebook any more because of the abuse," Jordan said. "Professionally, the politicisation doesn't affect me but personally, for a lot of my local friends, the 'de-friending' and the Facebook abuse is an aspect that this operational deployment brought to the fore."
The married father-of-three said one lesson from the past month had been how a single image could define for the public an operation that lasted hours.
"All it takes is one image of a baton, maybe used to take down an umbrella that has been poked at an officer's face. How that is spun will dictate whether it's seen as heavy-handedness or an appropriate level of force," he said.
"Having been there, I would say it's nearly all been an appropriate level of force."
Police have been widely criticised for their handling of a protest largely portrayed as peaceful. There have been frequent accusations of heavy-handedness.
But Jordan says: "We've used force but it has always been a reactive, defensive mechanism to enable us to resume some form of order and stability."
And he said the actions of some protesters had created an antagonistic atmosphere: "Protesters overtly arriving in huge face masks, hard hats and goggles. That's intrinsically not peaceful."