Hong Kong’s police force is getting its biggest manpower boost in a decade in response to the Mong Kok riot and a sevenfold surge in public protests and rallies since 1997, the Post has learned. The force will create more than 900 officer posts under a confidential management proposal that was approved several weeks ago by a high-level government committee known as the Star Chamber, chaired by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, according to sources. About 320 of these new positions will strengthen the force’s Emergency Unit, which currently has about 900 officers, while 180 will form a new Police Tactical Unit (PTU) company. Dozens more new positions will be set aside to establish a major incident bureau tasked with handling public order events, collecting intelligence, carrying out coordination work and arranging training for frontline officers. Watch: Protest turned riot in Mongkok The elite Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB) will also be beefed up, a government source with knowledge of the matter said. Over the past two years, the OCTB has been tracking down the perpetrators of the Mong Kok riot in February, launching criminal investigations linked to the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014 and cracking down on people-smuggling syndicates. As of October, Hong Kong’s police force was 33,945 strong, with 29,373 officers and the rest civilian staff. The source said the major boost for the Emergency Unit’s manpower was in response to the Mong Kok riot, when angry mobs went on the rampage following a dispute over a government crackdown on illegal street food hawkers. Protesters started fires on streets and hurled bricks at police, leaving nearly 100 officers injured. The primary task of the unit is to deal with 999 emergency calls and be the first responders to crimes such as burglaries, domestic violence, fights, robberies and riots, the source said. Watch: Police clash with protesters “If all [Emergency Unit] officers are deployed to handle a major incident such as the Mong Kok riot, there will be fewer officers on the streets maintaining law and order and emergency services to the public will be affected.” Stressing the need for the new posts, another source said it would be the first major manpower boost for the Emergency Unit in two or three decades. The staffing proposals are expected to be included in the government budget in February next year, and will then require the approval of the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee. Carrie Lam alluded to the expansion while addressing a fight crime conference on Saturday. She said the number of public order events had soared from 1,190 in 1997 to 7,852 last year, stretching police manpower. Police handled 5,602 public order events in the first half of this year alone. “I can announce here that in 2017-18 the [police force] will see a boost again because of the efforts of the secretary for security,” she said. “I and the financial secretary also feel that there is a need to give the police force more manpower so as to maintain law and order in society. “I am confident that good use will be made of every additional staff member to perform his functions in full as a member of the force.” The Junior Police Officers’ Association welcomed the additional personnel. “At present, there is insufficient manpower to deal with our current workload,” association chairman and station sergeant Joe Chan Cho-kwong said. “Extra officers could help to ensure that our emergency services will be provided to residents without delay.” At present, the force has seven PTU companies, each with about 170 officers, whose main task is to handle public order events, crowd control, anti-crime operations and riot control. It is understood that two new companies will start operating next year after the force was given approval to hire 600 officers in 2015-16. The total police workforce reached a peak of 35,418 in 2000 but dropped to 32,500 by 2006.