A high-calibre police force is not only defined by crime prevention and detection; but also public trust and accountability. In Hong Kong, the latter is underpinned by a statutory mechanism for police complaints to be reviewed independently. It is important the system continues to function in an impartial and trustworthy manner. The Independent Police Complaints Council received reports from the police complaints unit on 1,363 new cases in 2020-21. While it was a drop of 7.8 per cent year on year, the number of cases endorsed by the watchdog rose 7.5 per cent. The number of allegations also rose by 4.6 per cent, according to the council’s annual report. Concerns were raised after police received another 1,312 complaints in the first 11 months of this year, 25 per cent up from the same period last year. While the relatively minor allegations, such as misconduct, improper manner, offensive language and neglect of duty, rose by some 40 per cent, accusations such as assault, fabrication of evidence, abuse of power and intimidation dropped by one-third to 70 per cent. The changes were attributed to a lower base last year, during which there were fewer frontline contacts with citizens because of a raging pandemic. The overall numbers are still lower than those in the pre-Covid level, according to police. Police watchdog chief set to head University of Hong Kong governing council It probably takes more time to make sense of the situation. In any case, the ugly clashes between police and protesters during the anti-extradition bill movement in 2019 were thankfully a thing of the past. But the image of the police force has yet to be fully rebuilt, as does confidence in law enforcement. Even though society is more stable than two years ago, actions taken under the controversial national security law still reopen political wounds from time to time. If recruitment figures are any guide, the police force reportedly only achieved 30 per cent of its recruitment target this year. Separately, surveys showed that public ratings of police have crept to 50, out of 100 last month, up from 35 points at the height of the 2019 social unrest. But the score is still significantly lower than the usual range of 60 to 70 in the past. Despite efforts to rebuild the image of police in an attempt to restore trust, there is still a significant gap with public perception. Greater efforts are needed to close it.