A deputy police commissioner who said taking verbal abuse was part of an officer's job has expressed his regret to four staff unions and moved to clarify his controversial remark.
In a letter addressed to the unions, Alfred Ma Wai-luk also urged unity and said he would meet colleagues to explain his stance if necessary.
Ma, who leaves the force next month after 36 years, said it was unfortunate that some colleagues had interpreted his remark out of context with a lopsided view, and that this had made him feel uneasy.
"I regret having made them feel uncomfortable and causing misunderstanding," he wrote. "In this critical moment, we should stand united."
The letter was sent on Monday night, after the Police Inspectors' Association snubbed an urgent meeting called by Ma, who shares the No 2 rank with Stephen Lo Wai-chung, to clarify his remark.
Ma's offending comment was made in a radio interview on Sunday, in the context of a discussion on the need for police officers to exercise restraint and display professionalism.
He said at the time: "Tolerating such insults is also part of the job. They must accept this."
The words sparked widespread disquiet among officers, who took to instant messaging to question whether they were being paid for being scolded.
Ma clarified in his letter that he described verbal abuse as "part of the job" because it is something that "will be encountered at work in reality".
"But it does not mean I endorse such behaviour," Ma added. "On the contrary, the act of hurling insults at officers offends me and is extremely inappropriate."
Residents should comply with the law while voicing their views, he said, instead of taking out their frustration on officers.
He later told the South China Morning Post: "I absolutely oppose abusive behaviour towards police officers.
"When dealing with such provocative behaviour, colleagues need to remain calm, exercise restraint and be professional."
Negative feelings would affect an officer's judgment, he added.
The association said it had no comment on Ma's letter. Its chairman, Henry Ngo Chi-hang, reiterated that taking unreasonable insults was not part of police work.