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LCQ5: Safety of police officers during execution of duties

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-kin and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     From the night on the eighth of last month (i.e. the recent Lunar New Year's Day) to the early hours of the following day, a serious riot broke out in Mong Kok, causing injuries to more than 90 police officers.  The incident has aroused concerns about the occupational safety of frontline police officers and whether their accoutrements and training are adequate for handling riots.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of police officers who were injured and who died whilst on duty in each of the past five years; among the police officers who were injured, the respective numbers of those who were slightly injured, seriously injured and recovered, and permanently disabled, as well as the number of those who were injured or died during clashes arising from demonstrations;

(2) whether the Police have provided regular training on occupational safety and health for frontline police officers; if they have, of the details, and whether they will step up such training in view of the aforesaid riot in order to reduce the likelihood of frontline police officers sustaining injuries whilst on duty; and

(3) as there are comments that in future, some peaceful public meetings may suddenly turn into violent clashes, whether the Police will review their risk assessments for public events, strategies for immediate contingency response, as well as accoutrements for and manpower deployment of frontline police officers, and step up the anti-riot training for police officers; if they will, of the timetable for the work concerned?


     The Police attach great importance to the safety of police officers during their execution of duties, and have been taking proactive measures and from time to time examine and enhance the equipment and training of officers with a view to strengthening their personal safety.

     My consolidated reply to the Hon Wong Kwok-kin's question is as follows:

     The Police are responsible for preserving law and order, safeguarding lives and property of the public as well as preventing and detecting crimes and offences etc.  Given the unique nature of police duties and the possibility of encountering unpredictable situations in daily work, police officers may sustain injury during their execution of duties, especially when working in dangerous circumstances and facing persons who deliberately assault police officers as well as persons with propensity to violence or with weapons.

     To ensure the occupational safety and health (OSH) of police officers and prevent injury during their execution of duties, the Police have in place a comprehensive safety management system which comprises various elements, including training, risk assessment and case review etc.

     Regarding training, the Police provide regular and suitable OSH training to police officers having regard to the different safety risks faced by officers of various units.  All new recruits must receive training on OSH and safety management awareness while being trained in the Police College.  The Police also arrange various OSH courses covering general safety risk assessment, accident investigation and safety management etc for serving police officers and civilian staff.  In addition, in response to occupational safety needs of individual units, the Police will send officers to attend practical safety training provided by the Labour Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Council, such as training on fire safety and safe handling of chemicals etc.  Members of police operational units such as the Police Tactical Unit (PTU) and the Emergency Unit etc also undergo training on safety knowledge required for carrying out specific missions.

     Ensuring the safety of police officers is a prime consideration in police operations.  The Police will conduct risk assessment before an operation and take preventive measures to reduce the risk of injury of officers.  If an officer is injured in an operation, the unit concerned will review the injury case and adopt improvement measures to prevent recurrence in future similar operations.  The Police from time to time examine and enhance the safety management system and OSH training in order to strengthen OSH protection for officers.

     From 2011 to 2015, a total of about 4 600 police officers were unfortunately injured while on duty and two police officers were confirmed to have died on duty.  About 130 and about 100 police officers sustained injury during the illegal "Occupy Movement" in 2014 and the riot in Mong Kok in the early hours of February 9 this year respectively.  Detailed figures of police officers injured on duty are at Annex.  The Police do not maintain breakdowns by degree of injury.  To the HKSAR Government, injury or death on duty of even one police officer is too many and has to be prevented by all means.

     The duty of police officers is to serve the public.  However, in recent years, there were participants of public assemblies, demonstrations and processions whose behaviour has become increasingly violent.  Some protesters even deliberately charged at police officers.  During the Mong Kok riot, some people went so far as digging out bricks on pavements and throwing these bricks as well as glass bottles at police officers on duty, resulting in a vast number of officers sustaining injury.  This situation is worrying.  The HKSAR Government strongly condemns violent and illegal acts.  I thank the Honourable Member for his question today, as it arouses everyone's concern over this issue.  The HKSAR Government and the entire society have to join hands in stopping the spread of the trend of violence.  Wounding other people not only breaks the law.  If police officers are injured and as a result unable to perform their duties in preserving law and order as well as protecting the safety of lives and property of the public, the general public is to suffer.

     After the Mong Kok riot, the Police have established a review committee, chaired by Deputy Commissioner of Police (Management), to examine three areas, namely, "operations", "arms, equipment and training" and "support", so as to enhance the safety and professional competency of police officers in their execution of duties.  Members of the review committee include representatives of four police staff associations.

     Besides setting up the review committee, the Police have also implemented immediate measures to enhance the safety of police officers during their execution of duties.  Such measures include an immediate review of the personal protective gear of frontline police officers so that suitable equipment could be added within a short time.  In addition, the Police are procuring more Body Worn Video Cameras to enhance the capability in gathering evidence on scene.

     On the other hand, currently one PTU company is deployed to each of the five land Regions of the Police to tackle major incidents and unforeseen riots.  All PTU members have undergone stringent training on such aspects as riot handling, crowd management and control as well as anti-crime patrol etc.  If necessary, the PTU company of a certain Region will be deployed to support the operations of other Regions.  Within this year, the Police will establish two additional PTU companies approved in the 2015-16 Financial Year, with 340 officers in total.  This will enhance the Police¡¦s flexibility in manpower deployment and overall response capacity.  Also, the Police will strengthen internal security and crowd management training for frontline officers, and taking into account the risk assessment and operational needs, provide them with additional thematic training.

     For the medium term, the Police are now procuring three "specialised crowd management vehicles" with water spray devices in order to handle riots or illegal acts that may occur during large-scale and prolonged public assemblies more effectively.  "Specialised crowd management vehicles" can effectively disperse persons who stage violent charging acts, create a safe distance between these persons and police officers, reduce the chance of injury to them and police officers, and provide the Police with an additional operational option.  The Police have earmarked $27 million for procuring these vehicles and commenced the tendering and vetting procedures.

     In the long run, the Police will enhance the manpower and equipment of police officers as well as such areas as operational deployment and support etc in accordance with the recommendations of the review committee.  While meeting the media on February 14, the Chief Executive said, "I will strongly support any request for equipment and manpower as there are indeed persons, though relatively small in proportion, in our society who express some extreme political demands by means of escalated violence.  The Police must therefore have sufficient manpower and equipment to tackle such new challenges."

     President, the HKSAR Government fully supports the Police in maintaining law and order.  I pay solemn tribute to police officers who were unfortunately injured or even died when they, risking their personal safety, stood fast to their posts in the face of danger while executing their duties and serving our community.  I also convey my heartfelt sympathy to them and their families.  They certainly deserve our respect for their professional and fearless spirit and selfless contribution.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:53


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