Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Joseph Lee Kok-long in the Legislative Council today (January 14):
There are quite a number of comments that the Complaints Against Police Office ("CAPO") of the Hong Kong Police Force lacks credibility and transparency in handling complaints against the Police, for example, the investigations are conducted by police officers, and it has also been claimed that the Independent Police Complaints Council ("IPCC") has limited monitoring power. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of police officers who were disciplined in each of the past three years after the complaints against them had been substantiated, together with a breakdown by the type of penalties imposed on them; and
(b) whether it has considered further strengthening IPCC's power on monitoring the day-to-day investigation of CAPO (such as appointing full-time observers) to ensure that the investigations are conducted in a fair and impartial manner; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) In 2006 to 2008, 325 police officers were disciplined on substantiation of the complaints against them. Of these, 292 were given advice, 12 given warnings, 12 cautioned, two reprimanded, six severely reprimanded and one dismissed subsequent to criminal conviction.
A breakdown by year and by type of disciplinary action taken is at the Annex.
(b) The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) Ordinance ("the Ordinance") enacted in July 2008 puts the IPCC on a statutory basis while maintaining the existing two-tier police complaints system. Under the existing system, the Police Force is responsible for investigating complaints made by the public against members of the Police Force and the IPCC is responsible for monitoring such investigations. Upon establishment as a statutory body, the Chinese title of the IPCC will be changed to “獨立監察警方處理投訴委員會” (“監警會”). The Ordinance sets out clearly the powers, functions and duties of the IPCC under the police complaints system. It also stipulates the obligation of the Police to provide assistance to the IPCC in various respects and to comply with other requirements made by the IPCC under the Ordinance.
The enactment of the IPCC Ordinance is conducive to enhancing and reinforcing the independent status as well as the monitoring function of the IPCC. It also enhances the transparency and creditability of the police complaints system. The Ordinance confers upon the IPCC a wide range of powers to carry out its monitoring role. Such powers include requiring the Police to provide any information or material relating to reportable complaints and to clarify any fact, discrepancy or findings; requiring the Police to investigate or re-investigate reportable complaints; interviewing the persons concerned for the purpose of considering investigation reports on reportable complaints submitted by the Police; requiring the Police to submit to the IPCC reports on any actions taken or to be taken by the Police in respect of any recommendations made by the IPCC; requiring the Police to consult the IPCC on any proposed new order or manual of the Police Force that relates to the handling or investigation of reportable complaints, or any significant amendment proposed to be made to such orders or manuals of the Police Force. Under the Ordinance, the Police have to comply with the requirements of the IPCC to facilitate it in the performance of its monitoring function.
Furthermore, the Ordinance empowers IPCC members and observers to attend any interviews to be conducted by the Police and to observe the collection of evidence undertaken by the Police in respect of reportable complaints (for example, attending scene visits to locate possible witness(es) and evidence, to re-construct the events which have led to the complaint, to corroborate the statements of any party to a complaint and to check the physical layout of the scene of the complaint), with or without prior appointment at their discretion. After conducting an observation, they must submit a report to the IPCC stating their opinion on whether the Police have conducted the interview or collection of evidence in a fair and impartial manner, and stating any irregularities detected. Such observation arrangements significantly reinforce the monitoring role of the IPCC and ensure that the Police investigate complaints thoroughly and impartially.
Currently, the IPCC has 18 members from different sectors of the community and with different professional backgrounds. In addition, there are 88 independent observers who also come from various sectors of the community, including members of the Legislative Council and District Councils, legal and medical professionals, and community leaders. With their rich experience in the community and public service, they are able to directly monitor the investigation of complaints by the Police in a thorough and objective manner.
In order that the Observers Scheme can perform its role more effectively, the IPCC is updating its internal guidelines to remind IPCC members and observers of the issues requiring special attention when performing their observation functions. In addition, the Force also arranges briefing sessions and visits to police formations for IPCC members and observers from time to time so that they will have a deeper understanding of policing work. The Police will also stipulate in their internal guidelines that all officers must make every effort to facilitate the work of IPCC members and observers, and provide the greatest possible convenience as far as practicable. In particular, the Police will, where possible, allow for a longer notification period for IPCC members and observers in respect of upcoming interviews or evidence collection. The Administration will also consider appointing more observers as necessary.
Member's question specifically refers to the employment of full-time observers as an example to enhance the monitoring role of the IPCC in future. Although this is an initial suggestion, I would like to briefly point out that the suggestion has limitations. For example, the job nature of such posts and their promotion prospects may not provide sufficient incentive to attract and retain highly qualified individuals. We also wish to maintain, or even expand, the participation of members of the community in the Observer Scheme with a view to assisting the IPCC in its work. In any event, the Complaint Against Police Office will continue to proactively support the work of the statutory IPCC. The Administration will also carefully consider any feasible suggestion that will help enhance IPCC's monitoring role.
Following the enactment of the IPCC Ordinance in July last year, the IPCC has been actively making preparations and is now ready for its intended establishment as a statutory body under the Ordinance on April 1 this year. At the same time, I have appointed April 1 this year to be the date on which the Ordinance shall come into operation under section 2 of the Ordinance. The relevant Commencement Notice, which has already been published in the Gazette, is tabled at the Legislative Council today. We hope that with the establishment of the statutory IPCC, we can better ensure the impartial handling of complaints made by the public against members of the police force, thereby raising the confidence of the public in the police complaints system.
Ends/Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Issued at HKT 17:46