Police Constable Poon goes beyond the call of duty

Hero PC Poon with his precious cargo after carrying
the elderly woman down five flights of stairs from her
burning building

POLICE CONSTABLE Poon Chun-lung, who has been attached to EU HKI for one year, was praised for rescuing an 89-year-old woman from the fifth floor of a burning building in Wan Chai last month.

@The police constable, who has served in the Force for four years, met one of the biggest challenges of his life when he carried the elderly woman on his back down several flights of stairs to safety from inside a smoke-filled estate building - rated as a third-alarm fire.

@About noon on 24 October, the PC and his colleagues were alerted to the fire near Johnston Road. It was lunch hour, so both pedestrian and vehicular traffic was heavy. When they arrived at the scene, Sergeant Suen Yan-hon, EU HKI, was already there and supervised the officers rushing to the emergency.

@After calling for reinforcements and notifying the Fire Services Department, PC Poon and a colleague were ordered to start evacuating the building whose seventh floor was burning and spewing out dark clouds of noxious, suffocating smoke.

@"It was also necessary to cordon off the street near the building because burning material was falling from the upper floors," recalls Sergeant Suen, who has served the Force for 13 years in a variety of postings which include Police Tactical Unit, Special Duties Squad and Criminal Investigation Department.

@In the meantime, while evacuating residents of the building, PC Poon came upon the elderly woman standing near the fifth-floor fire door. "She was very frightened and helpless - her whole body was trembling," recalled PC Poon, who tried to soothe her. "She was so scared and old she couldn't move. So I hoisted her on my back and started carrying her down the stairs."

@Aware of her frailty, the police constable inched his way down at a steady pace. As he did, escaping residents in a near panic rushed past them, almost knocking them down on several occasions.

@Despite the difficulties, he was determined to hold on and get her out - which he did. The constable then handed the woman over to an ambulance crew and, with another colleague, returned to search for more residents in the building.

@Eventually the fire was put out and attributed to an electrical short circuit.

@"Because we were the first officers at the scene we had the responsibility to take appropriate action before the arrival of the firemen," said Sergeant Suen. "At the same time, because EU doesn't have professional fire equipment an assessment had to be made in regard to our own safety. It is extremely important to strike a balance between rescue and safety and to avoid unnecessary danger to our colleagues.

@"The rescue of the woman by PC Poon is largely attributable to EU tactical training which not only prepares our car crews to work as teams under extreme circumstances - but also prepares them physically and mentally to deal with crises as individuals as well," he added.

Reduction in working hours trial expands Force-wide

In order to shorten the briefing and debriefing time before and after patrol, TST Division posts all crime information for each patrol area on their notice board

A TRIAL scheme which began last April to reduce the working hours of Uniform Branch officers in seven land formations (Eastern District, Hung Hom Division, Sau Mau Ping District, Kwai Tsing District, Tai Hing Division and EU, NTS), has been expanded Force-wide as of 19 October. Now, over 27,000 police officers are eligible to work three hours less a week during the 18-month trial.

@"It is emphasised that only the 'working' week is being reduced," said SP Keith Ratcliffe of Support Wing. "The 'conditioned' hours, which govern the eligibility for over-time, time off, Disciplined Service Over Time Allowance (DSOA), and Standby Duty Allowance (SDA), remain at 51 hours per week. Once an officer has worked the 48 rostered hours and three 'extra hours' in a week, he will remain entitled to compensation for overtime."

@The principles underlying the 48-hour week are that there be no deleterious effect upon law and order in Hong Kong; the level of police service to the public be maintained; and it must be cost neutral.

@It is recognised that to meet these principles a small number of formations will have to retain shift patterns and standby arrangements which will preclude some officers from benefiting from a reduced working week. "Besides showing that the vast majority of officers will benefit from a reduced week, one of the purposes of the trial is to determine who cannot, and consider how their situation can be resolved," explained SP Ratcliffe.

@He noted that the expansion of the trial scheme may not be immediately beneficial to officers who routinely work more than 51 hours per week: "The trial has extended to officers in the crime stream and special duties squads. Often their work week is over 51 hours. As they then claim either Disciplined Service Over Time Allowance (DSOA), or time off in compensation for overtime, they will not benefit from the trial in the mean time."

@Continued SP Ratcliffe: "To show that a majority of Force members (report room duty officers and police on patrol, for example) benefit from a 48-hour week it will be necessary to collect statistics to show how many officers work 48 hours per week, how many officers have worked more than 48 but less than 51 hours per week, and how many officers have worked more than 51 hours per week."

@A three-hour reduction in the current six-day working week is an issue that both management and staff have been examining for some time. The Rennie Report in the late 1980s found that a majority of police officers worked more than 48 hours per week. "Based on the 15-minute inspection and briefing session before the start of their eight-hour patrol shift, and the 15-minute debriefing session at shift's end, the government accepted that the conditioned hours of the police should be 51 hours per week and the pay was adjusted accordingly," said SP Keith Ratcliffe, explaining that "conditioned hours" is defined as the time officers are expected to work to earn their salary and benefits.

@The impetus behind the reduction in working hours trial, which embraces similar international findings in the workplace that a properly motivated person can achieve more in a shorter period of time than a person who is not motivated, is to improve service conditions in the Force.

@Said Mr Ratcliffe: "The trend around the world is toward shorter working hours, which has a beneficial effect on employees who are less tired and stressed out - and who in turn do better work. Results since April of our trial in the seven formations point to a maintenance in the productivity of those officers taking part, while the level of police service to the public has been maintained and in many cases improved. We would like to extend this result throughout the whole Force."

@Commenting on the recent implementation of the trial in his division, DVC TST SP Leung Fui said his officers have welcomed the expansion of the reduced working hours scheme. "Most of our uniformed officers seem to be benefiting from the scheme, especially in terms of morale. Flexibility is the key. For example, officers who have to appear in court before a 'B' shift, can adjust their shift duty to fit into the 48-hour week concept - but only if the level of our service to the public remains undiminished.

@"And, in order to shorten the briefing and debriefing time before and after patrol, we clearly list all the crime information for each patrol area on the notice board to facilitate the patrolling officers," he added.

@A review of the Force-wide trial will be conducted next May. SP Ratcliffe said feedback from Force members on all aspects of the trial is welcomed.

New traffic enforcement against tailgaters likely to reduce vehicular accident rate

IN 1996, 29 per cent of all vehicular traffic accidents were caused by people driving too close to the vehicle in front of them. In most cases this constitutes the offence of Careless Driving, and in some instances Reckless Driving.

@Until now it has been difficult to prosecute this type of offence.

@But with the introduction of a new style traffic operation, it is envisaged that tailgaters will have to think twice before engaging in this dangerous practice.

@Officers of Traffic New Territories North have devised a system in which they incorporate special road markings, speed detection equipment and visual references to secure enough evidence to prosecute offenders.

@Drivers are reminded of the guidelines given in the Road Users' Code issued by the Transport Department which state that a two-second stopping distance should be maintained between vehicles at all times.

@Enforcement and Control Traffic New Territories North are advising motorists that this new type of tailgating operation has already started, and offending motorists are likely to be stopped and prosecuted.

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