POLICE officers had been sacked because they were so badly in debt, the Commissioner of Police Li Kwan-ha admitted yesterday. Mr Li assured legislators at yesterday's Public Accounts Committee hearing that the force took very strong disciplinary action, including dismissals, against debt-ridden officers, although he could not provide figures. The assurance came amid revelations that nine out of 144 loanshark victims detected in the first 10 months of this year were policemen. Last year, there were three out of 106 victims. Mr Li said the information was gathered by the force internal investigations office and it was an indicator of the level of police officers' borrowing from illegitimate sources. When asked by legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing if he would find ways to gauge the amount of loans borrowed by officers from loansharks, Mr Li said: ''It is like unreported crime. Unless there are good leaks . . . it's difficult to know.'' The Director of Audit Brian Jenney pointed out last week indebtedness among policemen was growing and criticised the force management for lacking co-ordination to prevent over-lending to officers. Mr Li stressed the force never condoned indebtedness. ''The personal conduct of police officers including indebtedness - especially when it would affect duty performance - has always been a matter of serious concern,'' he said. Mr Jenney estimated that the level of indebtedness among the force in 1992-93 was three times that of 1989, which stood at $254 million. Police officers can borrow from the Police Welfare Fund or apply for salary advances under the Civil Service Regulations. The Royal Hong Kong Police Credit Union also lends money to its 15,800 members. Mr Li said the credit union was in fact a thrift organisation which encouraged members to save money. Excluding loans extended by the union, the growth in debts was actually less dramatic than that depicted by Mr Jenney. On the criticism that police officers were receiving disproportionately more garnishee orders than other civil servants, the commissioner said 65 per cent of the order recipients owed less than $10,000 tax, which was less than a month's salary of a constable. The order, issued by the department to the Director of Accounting Services in case of salaries tax default, requires the director to deduct unpaid tax from the officer's wages. Mr Li also added: ''Because we are having legitimate sources of loans, that is the Police Welfare Fund, advances of salary and the Police Credit Union, so we are more open and we are easier to be identified for indebtedness that those who are in the unknown.'' The Commissioner said, as a result of Mr Jenney's report, the force had reactivated the practice of doing an annual survey to find out the overall level of indebtedness. Mr Li said they had also decided to set up an index system to show officers receiving loans either from the welfare fund or through salary advances. This cross-referencing mechanism would minimise the possibility of double lending to an officer for the same purpose.