Guidelines for Handling Abusive Behaviour by Members of the Public
The Hong Kong Police Force (the Force) has issued guidelines for its officers on how to handle abusive behaviour directed at them by members of the public (the guidelines) on 17th March 2014. This announcement serves to explain the background and principles adopted in the guidelines so that members of the public can understand why the guidelines were introduced and how they will be applied.
The Force is committed to providing a professional service to the community of Hong Kong and fully recognize that the majority of the public are law abiding citizens.
Police understand in some encounters members of the public may react emotionally or defensively. Whilst police officers are trained and committed to responding empathetically and professionally in these circumstances, there are occasions when individuals act to humiliate and impede officers in the discharge of their duties in a deliberately abusive, rude or uncooperative manner.
Abusive behaviour towards police does not in itself constitute an offence in either criminal or common law. Officers have to deal with such cases under existing legislation and police procedures.
In order to effectively address the issue, a set of guidelines has been developed to standardize police response to such incidents and to ensure professional service is delivered to members of the public at all times. These guidelines will also enable police resources to be gainfully deployed to serve the community instead of being engaged in unreasonable confrontational situations.
The guidelines will assist officers to perform their daily constabulary duties such as responding to calls for assistance from the public, conducting stop and search and traffic enforcement. They are not applicable to Public Order Events, which are subject to separate procedures.
Each case will be treated on its own merits with officers exercising professional judgment and responding in proportion to the behaviour of the subject and the nature of the report / complaint. The guidelines remind officers to remain calm and patient in the face of provocation, to be aware of their own speech and body language in order not to aggravate matters and, if possible, to defuse the situation.
During an abusive encounter where no offence is committed and there is no longer any constabulary purpose to be served in remaining at the scene, an officer will ensure that appropriate action has been taken and the reason for the action has been explained to the subject before withdrawing. The disengagement will help to ensure police resources are properly deployed.
Under certain circumstances, where a person is committing or about to commit an offence, officers may have to take enforcement action. Advice and warning may be given, where appropriate, and arrest action may be considered if the subject does not stop his action where it amounts to an offence, such as breaching the peace or obstructing a police officer.
If members of the public feel aggrieved about the manner the incident was handled, they may reflect this through established channels.
These guidelines are promulgated as part of the Force’s commitment to enhancing our professionalism, and at the same time ensuring the quality of our service remains high and police resources are used efficiently. The support, understanding and co-operation of members of the public in pursuing this commitment are greatly appreciated.