Several frontline police officers who clashed with protesters in Mong Kok on Monday night said poor decision-making by their superiors led to a chaotic situation that left about 90 of their comrades injured, some seriously.
Venting their frustrations on a WhatsApp social forum, the officers said they felt they were used as human shields and not given adequate equipment to deal with the protesters, Apple Daily reported on Friday.
They said the situation was already running out of control, with the protesters committing arson and other illegal acts, when some of the frontline officers fired warning shots.
They said their superiors should have declared a riot in progress and assigned more manpower to deal with the situation.
Kowloon West Regional Commander Tommy Yu Tat-chung, Traffic Kowloon West Senior Superintendent Chan Kwok-kee and Mong Kok Police Deputy District Commander Yau Siu-kei were among the senior officers at the scene that night, the newspaper said, citing sources.
The frontline officers asked why the commanders failed to take swift action and deploy tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Some observers suggested that police were wary about using tear gas after drawing public outcry over its use during the Occupy protests in 2014.
It is also said that the use of tear gas would require approval from the commander on duty at the police headquarters headed by Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung.
But other sources said police had already activated the emergency response mechanism to summon available manpower, including those on leave to report back to work.
The police’s Special Tactical Squad, a paramilitary riot control unit made up of officers from the Special Duties Unit, Counter Terrorism Response Unit, Airport Security Unit and Weapons Training Division, was summoned at 2 a.m. on Feb. 9 to gather at the Fanling headquarters.
However, it was already near dawn when the team arrived in Mong Kok after gearing up.
It was also observed that the officers’ gear, including helmets, batons and shields, were not enough to deal with protesters who were throwing bricks at them.
Officers from the Special Tactical Squad officers had to borrow long shields from the Airport Security Unit before they could regroup.
Some of the officers said the commanders should stop treating them like kids and comforting them with insincere praises.
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