Woman sergeant faces rare disease with courage

Woman Sergeant Fung at work
WOMAN Sergeant Fung Cheuk Wai-pik Ал nicknamed "Puma" by her colleagues because of her vast reserves of energy Ал has served in the Force for about 20 years. One of the happiest days of her life was when she was promoted to her present rank in 1993. On an evening in the same year she led a small team of officers on a six-hour observation operation in a remote area of Wong Tai Sin. The nest morning she could not get out of bed her boby ached so much.

At first it was a pain in her joints that she dismissed as common influenza. But when her fever failed to subside and her eyesight began to blur she consulted her doctor who was also perplexed by her malady.

"When I was promoted to the rank of sergeant I automatically expected more of myself in terms of performance. So I began to think that my illness was a result self-inflicting extra pressure on myself without realising it," recalled Puma.

At that time all she could do was to rest and take medication prescribed by the doctor. But she wasn't recovering. Eventually doctors informed her that she had rheumy of "mixed connective tissue disease".

To support his wife, Puma's husband, a sergeant serving in Crime HKI, gave up his duties and turned to the Uniform Branch so that he could spend more time taking care of her and their two sons who were then aged two and three.

Determined to work, Puma's strong will-power helped her to recover and she returned to work in 1996 where she was assigned to participate on the implementation of FICS, Unfortunately her health began to fail again forcing her to return to sick leave. This time her doctors found that she was suffering from a very rare disease called Systemia Lupus Erythematosus or, SLE.

Constant SLE attacks, however, could not wear down the resolute woman sergeant, who admits that she is not immune to bouts of depression Ал which are understandable when a once active and outgoing individual becomes temporarily bedridden.

But instead of complaining about her misfortune, she accepted reality and took positive steps to cope with the disease participating in workshops to learn to live with the pain attacks brought on by the ailment that can make such simple physical motions as washing her face or picking things top monumental tasks.

Woman Sergeant Fung also spent time strengthening her body and learning Tai Chi which she practices every day. She also took up Chinese calligraphy and flower arrangement.

Although her doctor has told her that she will never fully recover from the disease, she remains optimistic and determined to make the most of her life. Puma could apply for early retirement for health reasons, but she continues to rule out that option. She does not want to give up her work as a police officer.

She is proud to be with the Hong Kong Police and remains encouraged.

After a year of constant pain and fever, she has gone back to work again. With her previous experience with FICS, she has taken up duties as an assistant duty officer (ADO) in Western Division.

"I think the worst period is over," she said. "My attitude towards life is more positive than ever and I enjoy every minute of it. In fact, I hope that my experience will send a strong message to others suffering from the problems of life whether it be an illness, a troubled marriage, or financial woes. My advice is that however big the problem, if your determination is always a solution."

She said: "I feel grateful for my husband, sons, family, friends and colleagues. With their support I have never felt like I an fighting the battle all by myself."

CAPO strives to set record straight

Officers of CAPO Kowloon going over a complaints case
"WE always strive to conduct every investigation in a thorough and impartial manner in order to serve the interests of both the complainant and the complainee. This is the basic principle governing our existence," said Superintendent WD Coalter of the CAPO (Complaints Against Police Office) Kowloon Office after a 28-year-old man was found guilty of making a false complaint against a police officer.

The man was sentenced to prison for thirteen months-nine for perverting the course of justice and four for causing wasteful employment of police. This was the first successful conviction for perverting the course of justice resulting in a jail term for the person making a false complaint to CAPO.

The Court was told that on 10 Feb 98 the man was arrested for blackmail and loitering by a police constable in Sau Mau Ping and was later convicted and jailed. While serving his sentence he lodged a complaint that a Hong Kong Jockey Club cash voucher for $52,500 was stolen form him during his arrest by the constable. On receiving the complaint CAPO Kowloon carried out a detailed investigation into the case and concluded that the complaint was totally unfounded and made maliciously. He was charged after legal advice was obtained.

Because few people whose complaints are classified as false have been charged by CAPO, some police officers have become sceptical about its effectiveness. But this low charging rate can be explained by the constraints under which CAPO operates. CIP Chan Man-yin, CAPO Kowloon Team 4, explained that when a complainant's allegation, for example fabrication of evidence, is part of his defence to a criminal charge and he is convicted at Court, then the existing legal policy is that no charge for a false complaint will be considered against the complainant.

Added CIP Chan: "Another problem is the time bar for filing charges for nonindictable offences. Unlike indictable offences, such as blackmail and robbery, for which police can charge the suspect during and indefinite period after the offence is committed, CAPO has only six months from receiving the complaint in which to charge a person for offences such as misleading the police and causing wasteful employment.

"Unfortunately, most cases relating to false complaints tend to fall into the category of Sub-Judice for which a CAPO investigation is suspended until the conclusion of all judicial proceedings which can last anywhere from a few months to more than a year. As you can see, even if the complaint is finally confirmed to be a false one, there's no way CAPO can charge the complainant."

Established in 1974, CAPO is now under the umbrella of Service Quality Wing and has separate offices in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. East office is headed by a Superintendent with four Chief Inspectors who deal with complaint cases in their allocate Districts.

Said SP Coalter: "We accept complaints by telephone, mail, e-mail as well as inperson, and the CAPO teams investigate all serious and urgent complaints such as assaults, fabrication of evidence and misconduct. Allegations of a minor nature such as swearing, improper procedures and complaints arising from stop-and-search are normally referred to the relevant Formation Commander for investigation, although CAPO monitors the case.

Superintendent Coalter can understand the frustrations of police officers who are complained against: "Police officers by the very nature of their duties can be targets for complaints. It's built into the job. However, if members of the public genuinely experience unprofessional or bad service from an officer it is in everyone's interest that they can have their complaint properly investigated. The most important thing for police officers is to do their job as professionally as possible and remain calm when faced with difficult situations."

Added Mr Coalter: "Officers should not be in any doubt about the impartiality and the integrity of CAPO investigations."

For this purpose, CAPO staff regularly meet with police units to discuss issues related to complaints and raise the awareness of complaint prevention. They also visit officers under training at the Detective Training School and at the Police Tactical Unit.

Said Mr Coalter: "These seminars are invaluable in offering an opportunity for officers to communicate their concerns, learn more about CAPO and clear up any misconceptions they might have towards CAPO. To this end we are organising more of these sessions for officers in different formations. I am confident that if CAPO continues to do a good job and to maintain its impartially and fairness when looking into every case, we will gain due recognition and trust from all parties."

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