My Take

Proposed law to protect police against insults is laughable

Asia’s finest are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and now that they have body cameras, people are less likely to hurl verbal abuse anyway

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2017, 1:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2017, 1:06am

I have the greatest respect for our police force, especially for their remarkable restraint and overall professionalism during those terrible three months of the Occupy protests in 2014.

Still, it’s hard not to find the grandstanding by pro-government lawmakers laughable. Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu and Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan have called for legal amendments to make insulting law enforcement officers punishable by up to three years in jail along with a heavy fine under the Public Order Ordinance.

The Security Bureau has already said there is no plan to introduce any such amendments. As a practical matter, the lawmakers have no hope of passing such an amendment bill as it would require at least half of the members of the Legislative Council in the geographical constituencies to support it. The pan-democrats – who are in the majority in the geographical sectors – would simply vote it down, and in this case, be perfectly justified to do so.

But perhaps more importantly, there are already laws that provide safeguards such as for police officers to charge those trying to prevent them from discharging their duties. It’s already a criminal offence to assault or resist a police officer.

Hong Kong pan-democrats raise privacy concerns as police plan body-worn cameras for all frontline officers by 2021

When insults become excessive and prevent police officers from doing their job, they can always make an arrest. The reason why they often don’t do it is that they are trained – unlike many police departments overseas – to de-escalate a confrontation and resolve it peacefully. That’s proof that our officers are generally well-trained and disciplined, not that they are being hampered by a lack of safeguards.

In any case, the issue is not being neglected. The police force will be introducing the use of body cameras in phases. Almost 1,400 such cameras are already in use by officers in the Emergency Units, the Police Tactical Unit and several police districts. About 270 more will become available in the coming months. By 2021, it’s expected that every frontline officer will be wearing one.

It’s well-documented that the use of body cameras helps to de-escalate confrontations and discourage people from overreacting, and that includes the officers themselves in discharging their duties.

It’s also an excellent means for officers to use the footage as evidence for conviction.

There are ways for lawmakers and the general public to express support for the police force. But introducing unnecessary laws is not one of them.