A lawmaker and a representative of a police union have predicted a resurgence in the number of police officers plagued by debt troubles amid the financial crisis, after two years in which the numbers have fallen.
A Security Bureau paper submitted to lawmakers yesterday reveals another nine police officers were found to have unmanageable debts in the second half of last year, though the total number of officers with financial problems continued to fall.
Twelve officers were removed from the watch list during the period, bringing the net total down from 103 in the first six months of last year to 100 in the second half of the year.
Of the 100 officers, the debts of 74 had been incurred by problems with family members, 10 officers blamed the debts on overspending, while eight cited failed investments.
In the first six months of 2006, 158 officers were found to have unmanageable debts.
Police Inspectors' Association chairman Tony Liu Kit-ming said the figure may go up again as the economy worsened in the future.
'The police force is merely a miniature of society and we cannot expect the indebtedness problem to be completely solved,' he said. 'We only hope not many officers will be plagued by debt trouble.'
Inspector Liu said education against the indebtedness problem had been instituted from recruitment level, while penalties, including forced retirement, were imposed on officers whose indebtedness 'impaired their operational efficiency'.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, vice-chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, said middle-ranked officers should step up supervision of subordinates and locate those with debt troubles at an early stage.
A constable with the elite airport security unit committed suicide with his grandmother in November after he fell HK$1.5 million into debt. It was reported the officer had once earned HK$10 million on the stock market but his fortunes had sharply reversed in the financial meltdown.
The number of officers newly classified from 2006 to 2008 as having unmanageable debts: 92