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LCQ6: Complaints Against Police system

     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (October 29):


     In the early morning of the 15th of this month when the Police were dispersing protesters who were occupying Lung Wo Road in Admiralty, a reporter recorded a video footage about a subdued man being allegedly kicked and punched by police officers for four minutes in a dark corner of the Tamar Park. In the same morning, the Police said that the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) had received a relevant complaint and would handle it in accordance with the established procedures, and the police officers involved would be removed from their current duties. In the afternoon of the following day, the Police said that it had been confirmed that seven police officers were involved in the incident and they had been interdicted from duty. Also, CAPO had set up a designated special investigation team to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and was proceeding with the investigation as a criminal matter. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether reports received by the Police about police officers having allegedly committed criminal offences must be referred to CAPO for handling in the first place; under what circumstances will the Police directly commence criminal investigation into such reports in place of referral to CAPO, as well as the number and details of those cases of this category in the past 10 years; of the number of complaints in each of the past five years for which criminal investigation was commenced by CAPO (regardless of whether prosecutions were eventually instituted), as well as the shortest and the longest time it took from receipt of such complaints to commencement of criminal investigation;

(2) given that the police officers involved in the aforesaid incident were alleged to have committed a criminal offence of assault and the incident was video-recorded by the media, why the Police did not interdict the relevant police officers from duty on the day of the incident; of the respective ranks of the police officers who made the decisions to remove and interdict the police officers from duty; whether the police officers involved in the incident had in their possession equipment such as pepper spray, batons and firearms during the period when they were removed from their current duties; and

(3) of the number of occasions on which CAPO set up designated special investigation teams in each of the past five years, the types of complaints handled by such teams, and the lowest rank of the police officers who may decide to set up such teams?



     With the overall objective of enhancing the quality of their public services, the Police have, by means of various forms of training, endeavoured to enhance the professional sensitivity, communication skills and awareness of complaint prevention of officers at all levels, reinforcing the value system of the Force and ensuring a clear understanding among officers of all ranks of their respective professional responsibilities. In addition to complaint prevention, the Police adopt a four-pronged strategy, namely education and integrity culture building, governance and control, enforcement and deterrent, and rehabilitation and support, ensuring that all members of the Police maintain a high level of integrity and demonstrate a high degree of professionalism in their discharge of duties.

     My reply to the Hon Kenneth Leung's question is as follows:

(1) According to section 11 of the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Cap. 604), a complaint received by the Hong Kong Police Force must be categorised as a reportable complaint if the complaint relates to the conduct of a member of the police force while on duty or in the execution or purported execution of his duties, whether or not he identified himself as such a member, and, at the same time, meets other conditions that make it a reportable complaint under the Ordinance in that, for instance, it is made by a complainant directly affected by the police conduct, irrespective of whether the allegation involves any criminal elements. Such a complaint shall be investigated by the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) with the investigation report submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) for examination in accordance with the statutory requirements under the Ordinance.

     The functions of the CAPO include handling and investigating complaints of general and criminal nature. In the course of the investigation of a complaint case, if criminal element is detected, criminal investigation will be instigated. When a criminal investigation is commenced, the CAPO may consider classifying the complaint as "sub-judice". In that case, the complaint investigation will be suspended and the criminal investigation shall proceed first. In the course of criminal investigation, where necessary, advice from the Department of Justice (DoJ) would be sought. Only upon completion of the criminal investigation and the related judicial proceedings, the complaint investigation shall be re-opened. With criminal detection training and having been posted to various criminal investigation units, CAPO staff have profound knowledge, skills and experience in complaint investigation of different nature including general and criminal allegations.  

     However, in the event that investigation into any criminal allegations requires specialised investigation skills or knowledge, as in cases like complicated frauds and technology crimes, the CAPO shall discuss with other dedicated crime units to determine if the case is to be referred to other crime units for investigation. Having said that, at the conclusion of the criminal procedures, a complaint investigation report together with the recommended disciplinary actions shall be submitted to IPCC for examination in accordance with the Ordinance.

     I have to point out that under the current mechanism, the CAPO, from time to time, handles and investigates complaint cases that involve criminal allegations, such as "perverting the course of justice", "assault" and so forth. There were cases where there was sufficient evidence for criminal prosecutions against the police officers concerned. The police complaints system, which is proved to be effective, is kept under IPCC's scrutiny for fairness and impartiality.

     Referring to the suspected case of unnecessary use of force by police officers mentioned in the question, it was entirely reasonable that the case was referred to the CAPO as this was a requisite procedure under the established mechanism, given that the person concerned, in reporting his case to the Police, had indicated that it was a complaint against police officers, and that the allegations were related to the complainees' conduct in the discharge of duties. The CAPO has, following the established procedures, launched a comprehensive investigation in a fair and impartial manner and would seek DoJ's advice, where appropriate. An investigation report shall also be submitted to IPCC for examination in accordance with the statutory requirements under the Ordinance.

     I learn that in view of public concern over complaint cases arising from "Occupy Central" and its related activities as well as the serious nature of the allegations, IPCC has decided to refer all reportable complaints arising from "Occupy Central" to the Serious Complaints Committee (SCC) for monitoring. The CAPO shall, in line with SCC's requirement, report the investigation progress of such reportable complaints on a monthly basis.

     The CAPO does not classify complaints against police as "criminal cases" or "non-criminal cases". Therefore, the CAPO does not have the records so requested. As far as the past five years is concerned, the CAPO has conducted criminal investigations of allegations such as "assault", "assault occasioning actual bodily harm" and "perverting the course of justice".

(2) The suspected case of unnecessary use of force by police officers mentioned in the question has been referred to a dedicated special investigation team of the CAPO for investigation. The seven police officers who conducted the arrest of the complainant at the time in question have been removed from frontline operational duties on the afternoon of the day of incident. The Police, upon further investigation, confirmed that there were seven police officers involved in the handling of the complainant at the time in question. On the following day, i.e. October 16, the Police decided to interdict those officers in the public interest according to section 17 of the Police Force Ordinance. As criminal investigation has been commenced, I am not in a position to further comment on the case details.

     As far as general procedures are concerned, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Personnel), having considered the recommendations made by the Chief Superintendent of the Complaints and Internal Investigation Branch (C&IIB), shall make a decision to interdict an officer under CAPO's investigation, whose police warrant card shall be returned, while no equipment shall be issued.

(3) The CAPO shall, having regard to the urgency, complexity and sensitivity of complaint cases, as well as the availability of resources for investigation, consider the need to form a special investigation team. Such a decision shall be made by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Service Quality) upon deliberation of C&IIB's recommendations. As far as the past five years is concerned, the CAPO, on one occasion, formed a special investigation team in 2011 to investigate complaints related to the Police's approach in handling the security arrangements of former Vice Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Hong Kong.

     Thank you, President.  

Ends/Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:52


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