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Hong Kong police

More than 100 Hong Kong police officers were disciplined last year after complaints about them

  • Independent Police Complaints Council’s report reveals it received 1,616 new complaints in 2017/18
  • Officers using personal phones to collect private data and evidence of particular concern
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2018, 8:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2018, 10:47pm

Some 130 police officers were disciplined last year after complaints about them, up 48 per cent on the previous year, the force’s watchdog revealed on Wednesday, prompting calls for top brass to tighten supervision.

Officers using their personal phone to collect private data and evidence at crime scenes also caught the watchdog’s attention. Complaints about it increased threefold to 15 in the same period.

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) revealed in its annual report that it received 1,616 new complaints from the force’s Complaints Against Police Office in 2017/2018, a year-on-year increase of 3.1 per cent.

It endorsed 1,617 complaints, comprising 2,872 allegations, in the same year. The endorsed complaints were not necessarily made during the year in question

Half of allegations involved neglect of duty, while another third involved improper manners or offensive language.

As a result, 120 officers received warnings or advice during the period, while another 10 faced disciplinary reviews. Officers were also found at fault in 12 serious allegations such as assault and unnecessary use of authority, compared with eight allegations in 2016/2017.

Only 88 officers were disciplined in the previous year.

“That indicates there are probably certain areas where supervision is needed, particularly in crime scenes as most of these [complaints] happened in terms of crime scene situations,” said Anthony Francis Neoh, chairman of the independent statutory body, adding that he had reflected his concerns to Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung when they met recently.

“The commissioner clearly wants to engage with us on an overall basis, so we had a very wide-ranging discussion on policies,” Neoh said.

Among the increased cases related the use of personal phones, the watchdog substantiated complaints against two police constables after they recorded CCTV footage of a crime scene with their mobile phones in a high-profile murder case in a convenience store in March 2016, when a 7-Eleven owner died after being stabbed by a thief.

The pair shared the clips on chat groups with colleagues and the footage was leaked online a few hours after the crime took place, prompting the company to file a complaint.

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The force did not initially substantiate the allegation as the pair had shared the images so the suspect could be arrested as quickly as possible, while no evidence showed they uploaded the footage to the internet.

But the watchdog believed the officers’ actions indirectly led to the leak, regardless of their intentions. The pair later received a warning on the matter.

“After uploading it to the WhatsApp groups, the officers concerned would not know who would have the clips and how they would use them. This hurt the company’s image and the victim’s family,” said Daniel Mui Tat-ming, the council’s deputy secretary general for operations, adding that using personal phones to collect evidence, to take pictures of a person’s ID or other information, or to send confidential information were strictly forbidden.