THE chairman of the police Local Inspectors' Association was yesterday reprimanded for making political remarks about the re-introduction of capital punishment. Deputy Commissioner (Management) Peter So Lai-yin said officers were entitled to speak freely, but needed to act responsibly. In a blistering public rebuke, Mr So told the local inspectors' representative Robert Chau Chuen-kung that he deplored ''unnecessary and inappropriate'' comment that compromised police independence and a commitment to the rule of law. It is believed Police Commissioner Eddie Hui Ki-on approved the text of the ''strongly worded'' reprimand, dispatched force-wide at 4.30 pm. Mr Chau was handed the letter at Police Headquarters before being berated for lack of judgment. It is a move widely seen as an attempt to force him from his position, which he has held since mid-1992. Senior law enforcement sources also interpreted the broadside as a way to underscore the force's apolitical image. The Police Chiefs of Staff, the top policy-making body, met early yesterday to discuss how to react to Mr Chau's remark that he wanted to discuss the restoration of the death penalty with the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) - the Beijing-appointed panel working on the handover of sovereignty. Later, a smaller group decided on the open criticism of Mr Chau. ''You should be well aware that the Royal Hong Kong Police is obligated to maintaining its neutrality, impartiality and independence in discharging its duties and upholding the rule of law,'' Mr So said in the letter. ''Nothing should be said which compromises this raison d'etre.'' Mr So pointed out the Bill of Rights entitled all people freedom of opinion and expression. However, he argued for caution when police made public comments. ''The exercise of these rights carry with them special responsibilities for police officers,'' he said. ''I deplore unnecessary and inappropriate public comments which do not enhance the image of the force. ''In future, I must ask as a chairman of a police staff association and as a police officer, you show discretion and judgment in airing your views publicly and be mindful of the impact that these might have on other staff associations, the force and different sections of the community.'' The reprimand was made one day after the Expatriate Inspectors' Association distanced itself from the furore. A delegation of the 1,600-strong Local Inspectors' Association visited Beijing in January to meet mainland police but were warned in a letter to avoid raising political matters. The Government has declared a wider ban on civil servants contacting the PWC. Mr Chau returned from Beijing with an offer for superintendents to exchange personal views with their Chinese counterparts. He said bringing back the death penalty after 1997 was one of many issues he wished to canvass with the PWC. After being criticised by legislators and fellow officers he refused to back down, claiming his views represented the membership. He could not be contacted last night. Vice-chairman of the expatriate union, Owen Brady, said members were disturbed by Mr Chau's remarks. ''We wanted to distance ourselves from the comments to make sure that any reaction did not impinge on the welfare of our members,'' he said.