The Hong Kong police watchdog has revealed that the number of “reportable complaints” against the force has dropped over the past year, despite widespread allegations of misconduct during the pro-democracy protests and unrest last year. Of those investigated, under 10 per cent were deemed “substantiated.”
The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) submitted a 144-page report to the legislature on Wednesday. The watchdog said it received 1,478 “reportable complaints” from the internal Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) from April 2019 to March this year. The figure represented a 2.8 per cent drop from the previous year.
The IPCC considers complaints “reportable” if they are lodged by the person directly affected by police misconduct “in good faith” and are “not vexatious or frivolous.” Anonymous complaints and those filed by persons not directly affected would be categorised as “notifiable.”
The police watchdog endorsed the investigation results of 1,293 reportable complaints, which fell in number by 15.3 per cent compared to 2018/19. Among the 2,209 allegations, the major ones were linked to neglect of duty, misconduct or improper manner or offensive language and assault.
Among the 797 fully investigated allegations, 403 – just over half – were classified as “unsubstantiated,” and 59 were labelled as “false.” Only 57 allegations – or 7.2 per cent – were considered “substantiated.”
“Notifiable” complaints totalled 1,686 in 2019/20, compared to 617 in the previous year.
The force faced various police brutality and misconduct allegations during the large-scale anti-extradition bill demonstrations. Some accused officers of using excessive force in dispersing and subduing protesters, while others claimed sexual violence by officers during their arrests and while they were in custody.
Wednesday’s report showed that police took actions against 80 officers in light of 60 complaints. Only two received disciplinary reviews, and none entered any proceedings. The force also issued internal warnings to 25 policemen and 53 officers were handed advice.
An IPCC report in May cleared the force of serious wrongdoing. Chief Executive Carrie Lam – who has repeatedly rejected calls for a truly independent probe – also endorsed the report and said it was comprehensive, objective and fair.
A Hong Kong court last month declared the CAPO and IPCC to be “inadequate” in providing an independent oversight of the behaviour of police officers. While the IPCC was institutionally and practically independent from the force, the court said it lacked “necessary investigative powers.”
Overtime allowance passed
On Wednesday, Hong Kong lawmakers passed a bill that provides for the appropriation of HK$62.6 billion for the last financial year. The amount included HK$3 billion as additional expenses for the police arising from the 2019 to 2020 civil service pay adjustment and overtime allowance.
The IPCC also received HK$9.6 million as additional expenses for pay adjustments, as well as the thematic report they published in May on police behaviour during the protests.