SCMP Thursday, March 15, 2001

Shooting sparks manpower debate


Police were urged last night to review manpower deployment for beat patrols following the constable's murder in Tsuen Wan.
Legislator Lau Kong-wah of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong said: "I think police officers are in danger at any time and any place. It's safest for at least two officers to patrol together. They do have two people patrolling together at night for safety reasons. Now there are clearly also safety problems during the day."
He said police management should resolve staff shortage problems by again reviewing the role of the auxiliary force, which will have its numbers cut from 5,721 to 4,500 in the next five years. "If there is a manpower problem, the auxiliary force could help."
Mr Lau said he would raise the issue at the Legislative Council's security panel next month.
However, Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun and heads of officers' associations argued that the tragedy did not indicate a manpower problem. "I believe this was an isolated incident. Deploying two officers to patrol together would reduce the beat coverage area," Mr To said.
Chairman of the Junior Police Officers' Association, Lau Kam-wah, said it was not a problem for an officer to go on patrol alone during the day as long as back-up was available if the need arose. Chairman of the Local Inspectors' Associations, Tony Liu Kit-ming, said manpower deployment, training and equipment were sufficient. "There are thousands of reports every day. Deploying two officers would involve more resources. It is not just a matter of money - it's just not necessary."
Superintendent Law Cheuk-hung of the Support Wing said officers were taught how to prevent their pistols being snatched.
Representatives of disciplinary officers' associations observed a minute's silence for the murdered constable yesterday. Mr Liu said donations would be collected for the constable's family.