This article is an excerpt from former Police Commissioner Lee Ming-kwai's dialogue with staff of the Hospital Authority on November 16 2011.
I started restructuring and reallocating part of CAPO's resources to complaints prevention without compromising the quality of complaints investigation.
When realising that some of the complaints, in particular those related to mannerism, were preventable, CAPO produced a complaints prevention video to coach frontline officers how to prevent the preventable ones. Based on real complaint cases, the video was produced by CAPO officers in their spare time. I then instructed all OC investigation teams to bring the video to the attention of our frontline officers and personally advised them on how to prevent complaints.
Complaints prevention equally important
This complaints prevention initiative served three purposes. Firstly, to improve the interaction between frontline officers and the general public; secondly, build up rapport between CAPO and frontline officers; and lastly, allow CAPO officers to better appreciate frontline officers' difficulties.
Honestly speaking, frontline officers faced more pressure and criticism, and that's why most of them accepted CAPO's advice with an open-mind.
Nowadays, the Force Committee on Complaints Prevention promotes complaints prevention strategies and initiatives and many officers share their own initiatives.
It is apparent that the nature of complaints differs from profession to profession. Nevertheless, I would like to reiterate that the complaints culture is inevitable in fair and impartial societies. Instead of mourning about it, it would be better to embrace the culture positively.
It may be easier said than done. To walk the talk of embracing the complaints culture, a lot of hard work is required. Apart from preventing the preventable ones, we are also required to proactively approach other stakeholders, enhance their understanding of police work, and generate more appreciation.
It is the Force's policy to try to explain our difficulties to the complainants. The Informal Resolution mechanism was specifically designed for this objective.
Moreover, the mutual trust and understanding among IPCC Members, Observers and Force members have been strengthened through the IPCC Observers Scheme and IPCC visits.
My view is that as it is an undeniable fact that there are complainants and IPCC Members, it would be wiser to work together for enhancing service quality instead of building up hostility. Let us embrace and become friends.
Transform complaints culture
Looking to the future, I believe we can transform the complaints culture.
We can attempt to turn malicious and unreasonable complaints into constructive criticism. To achieve this, we need to change our attitude and project complaints positively.
Consider this scenario. Service providers believe they are experts in their fields and refuse to change. Clients insist that their expectations must be met, and overseeing bodies strictly adhere to systems and procedures. Matters can only get worse.
In other countries, it is not uncommon to see complaint cases brought before never- ending litigations.
To embrace the complaints culture, we must strive for harmony. We should be more patient and understanding and actively seek quality improvement in order to achieve a win-win situation.