POLICE time is being wasted on jobs which could be done by civilians. Manpower reports compiled over the past 18 months have initially indicated 500 positions where civilians could free police for frontline constabulary duties. Of the 27,000 disciplined staff, less than 8,000 are on the street at present. The Government is examining the 42 manpower reports to determine the right size of the police force and the most effective deployment of officers. A prime candidate for change is catering. More than 250 police spend their time cooking for fellow officers, even though force policy states civilians should be used wherever possible. Among them are about 150 who cook in small or remote stations, and 60 who are assigned to the Police Tactical Unit and the Field Patrol Detachment. ''These redeployments have been used for nearly a decade, and it is now appropriate to have posts created for civilians,'' the report on catering said. ''The continued redeployment of disciplined staff to cater for senior officers in their messes cannot be justified.'' A 16-strong emergency catering unit, formed in 1989 to cook for officers in the Vietnamese boat people camps, was obsolete since most camps had been closed or handed over to other government departments. ''The need to use these officers in an emergency situation is very limited and they are now primarily involved in routine cooking at canteen and mess outlets,'' the report said. About 75 disciplined staff also work in the Force Catering Section, which is responsible for ensuring standards and hygiene are maintained throughout the force and adequate food is available for emergencies. ''While there is a need to retain some disciplined staff in the Force Catering Office, there is considerable scope for civilianisation,'' the report said. The Police Dog Unit - comprising 111 disciplined officers and 10 civilians - is also identified as ripe for change. A senior staff inspector heads the unit's administrative section, which includes one barrack sergeant, four constables as guards and five constables as drivers. The report said that since the inspector's duties were almost entirely administrative it was inappropriate for him to assume command of the unit in the absence of its head. Although the report said the position should not go to a civilian because it involved supervision of disciplined officers, a government official pointed out civilians could also replace these officers. The barrack sergeant's duties, for example, included briefing drivers to ensure vehicles were in working order, allocating jobs to workmen, briefing the cook on catering requirements and ensuring the kitchen was clean and tidy. His reserve duties included feeding all dogs outside normal working hours, exercising them on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, and filling in for the guards. In fact the four police guards under him will be deployed elsewhere and the posts abolished when the police dog unit is relocated from Ping Shan to Queen's Hill Camp later this year as security will then be provided by the Field Patrol Detachment.