As political wrestling continues over picking the first chief executive of the Special Administrative Region, at least one organisation vital to our future seems set to sail through the transition. After two years of uncertainty and doubt, the Royal Hong Kong Police have emerged ready to forge ahead into the 21st century. Those expatriates who decided to leave because of the transfer of sovereignty have either departed or have fixed dates to depart. Local officers who plan to retire or resign before June 30 next year have also made their intentions clear. Many of the expatriates who left did so reluctantly for financial reasons. Those on pensionable terms (Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Servants) obviously could not continue serving another government on the same terms. They received fair and generous offers which many felt they could not refuse. Come July 1 next year, probably about 100 of them will remain in the force. Best guesses show about 300 more expatriates will remain on contract terms. Many younger officers on contract felt it sensible to resign or to take early retirement. If you are a 42-year-old superintendent, for instance, you have police experience and managerial skills sought on the international labour market. Keep working until you are 55 and demand for your services has diminished sharply. Better to make the break now, many thought, rather than take the risk of working for the new administration. Financially, that decision was made relatively stress-free because a number of police officers, along with other civil servants, had taken advantage of liberal property purchase schemes. In one case, a superintendent who paid a minimum deposit to buy a $2.8 million villa five years ago - then had the monthly mortgage repayments met by government payments under civil service home purchase arrangements - sold the house for $7 million, almost all of which was total untaxed profit. Added to the bonus payment for early retirement and pension, it was a situation which would never be repeated. Little wonder so many left. But that shake-up in upper ranks is now over. Quietly, the police have been making preparations to manage the transition. The name will change, reverting back to the Hong Kong Police, the name the force used from its foundation in 1844 until 1969. Then, in recognition of its valour and steadfastness during the rioting and bombings of the disturbances, the Queen granted it the 'royal' title. That name, obviously, will go. So will the role of commandant in chief, occupied by the much-admired and greatly liked Princess Alexandra. She has been titular head of the force for more than 25 years, makes frequent visits in that role and knows personally a large number of senior officers. She will make a farewell visit in February to say goodbye. There will be no replacement. Come June 30 next year, the visible trappings of colonial connections will have been discretely consigned to the storeroom of history. Portraits of the Queen which hang in police stations and officers' messes will come down. Nobody seems quite sure what will replace them. About $5 million is now being spent removing the letter R from force-issue revolvers and other arms. The same offending letter will be removed from badges, buttons and equipment. A committee is making final decisions about new badges and emblems. The crown will no longer be worn on superintendent's shoulders. But these are cosmetic rather than substantial changes. Basically, our police force will remain unchanged. Police Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on has stressed repeatedly that there will be as little change as possible. People want to see what is familiar. They will see the same constables on the beat in the same uniforms. The force has been changing for years. Under the Basic Law, the commissioner must be from Hong Kong, Chinese by race and with no right of abode abroad. Li Kwan-ha became the first Chinese to head the force, when he was appointed seven years ago. The popular Eddie Hui will straddle the takeover. With localisation, accelerated departure of expatriates and natural promotion up the ranks, an increasing number of members in the Gazetted Officers' Mess at police headquarters are Chinese. Overseas recruitment to the inspectorate ended two years ago, although police will still be able to hire people abroad who have needed specialised skills. After 1997, the Hong Kong Police will continue to be represented at Interpol headquarters in France. Instead of being a bureau of the British office there, the superintendent in charge will come under the Chinese bureau. An officer will also remain posted to the police college in Britain where senior officers from Hong Kong will continue to be trained. Direct links will also continue between police forces overseas which work with Hong Kong in the international war against crime. And the connections with Chinese forces, which have resulted in many arrests on both sides of the Shenzhen river and the capture of criminals who have fled one jurisdiction for sanctuary in the other, will be boosted. Specialists and senior officers will after next year still attend international law enforcement congresses as representatives of the Hong Kong Police. All this has been agreed. It has happened without fanfare or fuss. Since the joint declaration was signed in 1984, there has been an endless chorus of politicians from London to Beijing echoing the need for 'prosperity and stability'. I believe the most solid basis to achieve this is internal law and order. This has been a concern, largely unspoken, by many people in our community. They worry, frankly, about a breakdown in law and order after 1997. Wisely, in my opinion, the police and government have not launched a publicity campaign to reassure people. They think the most positive message will come from policemen continuing to do an excellent job of protecting people and their property. That's the concrete reassurance people want. That's why Hong Kong should be grateful that with nine months to go before the transition, our major law enforcement agency is doing its customary fine job of protecting the people of Hong Kong.