Police chief unveils promised reform of the CID

Vowing to boost morale in what was once the most coveted, and is now the most troubled, of police units, Hong Kong's police chief yesterday announced a reform structure for police detectives to begin in April.

Making good on a promise to look into detective staffing and workload issues that he made when he took the office last month, Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung (inset) said a new structure of the criminal investigation department (CID) would be put into place from April 1.

'Rearranging the resources and manpower of the CID could help eliminate the chance of detectives needing to work overtime,' Tsang said at the spring reception of the Junior Police Officers' Association yesterday.

He had instructed regional commanders of six police regions to implement the restructuring of the CID.

Under the new plan, each police district is to have eight criminal investigation units, in order to make sure that every shift will have at least two units on duty.

In this way, 'one unit could concentrate on ongoing crime case investigations and one could focus on new intake cases', Tsang said.

'In recent years CID officers used to work overtime as they could not leave the work when the shift ended as suddenly a new case was received,' Tsang said.

He expected the new measure would help detectives achieve a better work-life balance.

Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association chairman Tony Liu Kit-ming yesterday applauded the reforms - up to a point.

'This new CID structure can only improve the CID workloads marginally, and does not touch on the core problem of the shortfall of detectives: too much work and not enough detectives,' Liu said.

Increasing manpower was the ultimate solution to the problem, he said.

Fresh concerns about the workload of detectives arose after the death of a senior inspector, Yip Hoi-wai, in January.

Yip died of a stroke despite warnings that his health was not up to the job. Many officers have been reluctant to join the CID and embrace its culture of long hours.

The city has about 5,500 CID officers out of a total police force of 28,000. CID teams are managed at the division level, a sub-level of police districts. Each division has three or four CID teams, with only one team on duty during each shift.

Tsang said the force would see if additional resources were needed after trying out the new structure.

Aside from the restructuring, the police team that studied the problems facing the CID also suggested providing more chances for promotion and professional development. More details will be released after the team finishes the report in April.