POLICE chiefs have been warned to prepare for a sudden loss of experts from specialist units. They have been told to take preventative steps, such as offering faster promotions. The warning follows further analysis of the force's manpower planning survey. All officers above the rank of inspector have been interviewed. Only nine per cent said they were leaving but, in the ranks above senior superintendent, nearly half indicated they were undecided or would definitely go before 1997. A more detailed breakdown of areas where most officers may leave has emerged. It is believed the most vulnerable ranks are mainly in Crime Wing: Commercial Crime and Narcotics Branch have significant concentrations of expatriates. There are also concerns for the New Territories regions and Kowloon West. 'They have been told to take the correct management decisions; to make sure that efficiency does not deteriorate,' said one source. 'They must plan accordingly and earmark the people suitable for, if needed, a faster than normal promotion.' Senior Assistant Commissioner (Personnel and Training) Tony Mullins said at this month's Police Force Council meeting that he supported a continued role for expatriates. Fears that local officers will be promoted ahead of better-qualified expatriates have resurfaced in the past few months. Management says most officers above the rank of superintendent should be locals by 2000 - a requirement that has already nearly been reached. The Superintendents' Association returned on Sunday from a 10-day trip to Xian and Beijing, during which they received assurances on the future of the service after 1997. The delegation was also told all officers, expatriate and local, were welcome to stay in the force. Chairman Chief Superintendent Milly Stradmoor said officers should be positive about the future. 'We should be looking forward to the changeover, that is the message,' said Ms Stradmoor. 'I certainly have confidence to stay on until my normal retirement and I don't think anything drastic is going to happen at all. Of course, there will be pessimists out there. 'And there will be those who will be leaving for purely personal reasons.'