A move to arm off-duty officers with extendable batons could only aggravate the strained relationship between the police and the public, a pro-democracy lawmaker warned.
James To Kun-sun, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council’s security panel, also said the decision could lead to unnecessary clashes.
According to an internal police memo leaked online, an assistant police commissioner has approved a plan to issue extendable batons to officers to enable them to carry out “constabulary duties” while off-duty, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The move was part of “Operation Tiderider”, the memo said. The operation was launched on June 9 to deal with large-scale protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The batons, which come with “special markings”, will be distributed to officers of all major police units.
Explaining the measure at a daily media briefing on Tuesday, police said in view of the escalating violence in recent anti-government protests, the force believes it is necessary to provide officers with additional equipment they can use to exercise police powers under emergency circumstances.
Senior Superintendent Wong Wai-shun of the police’s Operations Bureau told reporters that the public should not worry about the measure, which is based on Section 21 of the Police Force Ordinance, because there will be records whenever an officer uses force.
Wong also said officers will undergo proper training and receive clear guidelines on the use of the retractable batons.
Police did not reveal how many extendable batons will be issued, although legislator To said he understands that more than 10,000 units will be distributed.
When asked whether off-duty officers need to show their warrant card before using the baton, police said that would be done when the situation allows.
Meanwhile, police launched 10 anti-violence hotlines that members of the public could contact via WhatsApp to assist in the prevention and detection of crime.
The 10 WhatsApp hotlines are 5566 9500 to 9509.
Members of the public could use the hotlines to provide “violence-related intelligence” to the police, including photos, recordings and videos, to assist in stopping riots and restoring peace and stability in society, a government press release issued Tuesday night said.
“Police always appeal to members of the public to cut ties with violent and criminal elements,” Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung of the Police Public Relations Branch said in the daily briefing.
“We hope through this new measure, members of the public can come together to combat violence,” Tse added.
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