Hong Kong Police Force
|Hong Kong Police Force|
|Common name||Hong Kong Police|
|Motto||Serving Hong Kong with Honour, Duty and Loyalty|
|Annual budget||HK$20.6 billion (2019–20)|
|Operations jurisdiction||Hong Kong|
1 Arsenal Street, Wan Chai, City of Victoria
|Police officers||Regular establishment: 35,790 (2020 to 2021)|
Regular posts: 30,857 (as of 31 January 2019)
Auxiliary Compilation: 4,500
Assisted Posts: 4,500
|Non-officers||4,611 (as of 28 July 2020)|
|Parent agency||Security Bureau|
|Hong Kong Police Force|
|Hong Kong Police|
|Royal Hong Kong Police Force|
Politics and government|
of Hong Kong
|Related topics Hong Kong portal|
The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) is the primary law enforcement, investigation agency, and largest disciplined service under the Security Bureau of Hong Kong. It was established by the British Hong Kong government on 1 May 1844. The 'Royal' title was bestowed upon the HKPF for its efforts in quelling communist riots in 1967. The Royal Hong Kong Police Force (RHKP) reverted to its former name after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to People's Republic of China.
Pursuant to the one country, two systems principle, HKPF is officially independent of the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China, which under usual circumstances may not interfere with Hong Kong's local law enforcement affairs. All HKPF officers are employed as civil servants and hence required to maintain political neutrality.
A police force has been serving Hong Kong since shortly after the island was established as a colony in 1841. On 30 April 1841, 12 weeks after the British landed in Hong Kong, Captain Charles Elliot established a policing authority in the new colony, empowering Captain William Caine to enforce Qing law in respect of local inhabitants and "British Police Law" for "non-natives". By October 1842, an organised police force (still under the direction of Caine who was also Chief Magistrate) was routinely bringing criminals before the courts for trial.:17 Caine's role as head of the police force ended when its first Superintendent was appointed on 22 February 1844, Captain Haly of the 41st Madras Native Infantry.:40–41 The formal establishment of the force was gazetted on 1 May 1844.
During World War II, Japan occupied Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Police Force was temporarily disbanded.
The 1950s saw the commencement of Hong Kong's 40-year rise to global prominence, during which time the Hong Kong Police tackled many issues that have challenged Hong Kong's stability. Between 1949 and 1989, Hong Kong experienced several huge waves of immigration from mainland China, most notably 1958–62. In the 1970s and 1980s, large numbers of Vietnamese boat people arrived in Hong Kong, posing challenges first for marine police, secondly for officers who manned the dozens of camps in the territory and lastly for those who had to repatriate them. The force was granted the use of the title ‘royal’ in 1969 for its handling of the Hong Kong 1967 riots — renaming it the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (Traditional Chinese: 皇家香港警務處).
In 1974, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was created to give government wide-ranging powers to investigate corruption. At the turn of the 1980s, the Hong Kong Police Force began marketing itself as "Asia's Finest".
The recruitment of Europeans to the force ceased in 1994, and in 1995 the Royal Hong Kong Police took responsibility for patrolling the boundary with China. Prior to 1995, the British Army had operated the border patrol. The force played a prominent role in the process of the handover of sovereignty in 1997 and continues to perform ceremonial flag-raising on each anniversary. With the handover of sovereignty, the police force dropped the prefix "Royal" from its name.
In the 2010s, the police force played a prominent role in relation to the 2014 Hong Kong protests and 2019–20 Hong Kong protests. Following Chris Tang's appointment as the Commissioner of Police in November 2019, the police force changed its motto from "We serve with pride and care", which had been used for more than 20 years, to "Serving Hong Kong with honour, duty and loyalty." The Economist suggested that this change would curry favour with the central government of China.
During the 1940s, the HKPF faced a number of corruption scandals involving officers. During the 1950s and 1960s, the force struggled with corruption issues relating to bribes from syndicated drugs and illegal gambling operations. Police corruption again emerged as a major concern in the early 1970s when the Commissioner ordered investigations to break the culture of corruption, causing forty-odd officers to flee Hong Kong with more than HK$80 million cash (about HK$2 million each).
More recently, the Hong Kong Police Force has faced extensive allegations of misconduct during the 2019 protests including excessive force, brutality, torture, and falsified evidence. In particular, the police were criticised for their failure to respond during the mob attack at the Yuen Long MTR station in July 2019. Several lawsuits were filed in October 2019 against the HKPF for failure to refusal to show identification during protests.
Organisation and structure
The Commissioner of Police serves as the commander of the HKPF and reports directly to the Secretary for Security. The HKPF is divided into five primary departments: Operations and Support, Crime and Security, Personnel and Training, Management Services, and Finance, Administration & Planning.
Salaries and fringe benefits
Police officers enjoy remuneration far exceeding median incomes in the Special Administrative Region (HK$18,000 per month in 2019), the base rate for newly recruited police constables with minimal high school education being HK$24,110 per month and that for high school matriculants being HK$42,655. In addition, all officers enjoy extensive housing benefits, free medical and dental benefits (including coverage of family members), with substantial vacation, sick and maternity leave allowances exceeding statutory minimums.
Police Welfare Fund
In addition, officers and their families enjoy substantial fringe benefits through the statutorily entrenched Police Welfare Fund which has current assets exceeding HK$200 million. Attracting funds in excess of HK$50 million per annum, almost entirely donations, the fund trustee, the Commissioner of Police, has unfettered freedom to choose how the funds are to be expended. The Commissioner disburses the bulk of its annual expenditure in the form of cash grants to police officers and their families.
A donation of HK$10 million by the pro-Beijing Friends of Hong Kong Association, which consists of National People’s Congress delegates and members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference national committee, in 2019, raised concern, as did a 2017 donation of HK$15 million, that fringe benefits may be inadequate.
Further fringe benefits
Two trust funds established by statute in 1967 augment the benefits enjoyed by members of the force. The Police Children's Education Trust and Police Education & Welfare Trust disburse funds by way of scholarships, bursaries and grants for education expenses and to assist officers with needy children or in financial difficulty. These funds were also the recipients of, in total, HK$10 million of largess in 2017 from an undisclosed donor.
Numerous associations of serving and retired police officers have been formed over the years. Currently, these include:
- Superintendents' Association
- Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association
- Overseas Inspectors' Association
- Junior Police Officers' Association
- Royal Hong Kong Police Association
The four serving officers' associations wield significant power, controlling half of the voting rights on the Police Force Council. Government consultations with Police Force staff are formally conducted through the council and the associations figure prominently at times of controversy.
Ranks and insignia
The HKPF continues to use ranks and insignia similar to those used in British police forces. Until 1997, the St Edward's Crown was used in the insignia, when it was replaced with the Bauhinia flower crest of the Hong Kong government. Pips were modified with the Bauhinia flower in the middle replacing the insignia from the Order of the Bath. The crest of the force was modified in 1997. The rank structure, organisation and insignia are similar to those used by the Metropolitan Police Service until the mid-1970s.
- Commissioner of Police (CP) (Traditional Chinese: 警務處處長): crest over pip over wreathed and crossed batons.
- Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) (Traditional Chinese: 警務處副處長): crest over wreathed and crossed batons.
- Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SACP) (Traditional Chinese: 警務處高級助理處長): pip over wreathed and crossed batons.
- Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) (Traditional Chinese: 警務處助理處長): wreathed and crossed batons.
- Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) (Traditional Chinese: 總警司): crest over two pips.
- Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) (Traditional Chinese: 高級警司): crest over pip.
- Superintendent of Police (SP) (Traditional Chinese: 警司): crest.
- Chief Inspector of Police (CIP) (Traditional Chinese: 總督察): three pips.
- Senior Inspector of Police (SIP) (Traditional Chinese: 高級督察): two pips over bar.
- Inspector of Police (IP) (Traditional Chinese: 督察): two pips.
- Probationary Inspector of Police (PI) (Traditional Chinese: 見習督察): pip.
Junior Police Officer (Rank and File)
- Station Sergeant (SSGT) (Traditional Chinese: 警署警長): wreathed crest.
- Sergeant (SGT) (Traditional Chinese: 警長): three downward-pointing chevrons.
- Senior Constable (SPC) (Traditional Chinese: 高級警員): downward-pointing chevron.
- Police Constable (PC) (Traditional Chinese: 警員): slide with ID number.
Up until 1997, uniforms and hats had distinctions according to their rank. For example, senior constable and sergeant ranks are plastic ranks on the sleeve of the uniform. SDU, Marine Police, and the Counterterrorism Response Unit have their ranks at the back of the helmet or vest. Inspector to senior superintendent ranks have an insignia on the collar of the uniform. Chief Inspectors have a wide black stripe fitted on their police hats. Superintendents also have a small white stripe fitted on the police hat. Senior Superintendents and Chief Superintendents have a wide white stripe on their hats, Assistant and Senior Assistant Commissioners have 1 row of silver oak leaves on the edge of their hats while Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner has 2 rows of silver oak leaves, a slide with a silver vertical line on the collar of the uniform, a black baton, and a red whistle or a black and white whistle on the front right pocket.
Uniforms and Equipment
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The current Hong Kong Police uniform was implemented in 2005. Most frontline officers wear a light blue shirt and dark blue cargo trousers, while senior officers wear a white shirt.
A long-sleeved shirt is worn with a black necktie, while a short-sleeved shirt can be worn with an open collar in warm weather. A waist-length dark blue windbreaker can also be worn over the shirt in cooler temperatures.
Male officers wear a black peaked cap while female officers wear a black bowler hat with a red strip. A navy blue beret or a dark blue baseball-style cap is worn in some specialized units.
HKPF officers do not wear a badge, but instead carry a warrant card for identification. The uniform also does not include shoulder patches. Instead, a silver HKPF emblem is displayed on the headwear. The only patch on the uniform reads “Police” in English and Chinese, and is sewn above the left breast pocket of the shirt. Navy blue shoulder boards worn on all uniform shirts and jackets show the officer's rank insignia (if any) and unique identification number.
Beat officers wear a utility belt which holds a sidearm (Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 revolver) in a holster, extra ammunition (including speed-loaders), handcuffs, an extendable baton, a can of pepper spray, and a Motorola radio with a connected remote speaker microphone attached to the shoulder. Officers are occasionally equipped with a body-mounted camera, and electric Tasers are currently being considered. Bullet resistant vests are not regularly worn.
Specialized units are equipped with a wide variety of gear suited for their missions, including less lethal weapons and a range of firearms from European and American manufacturers, such as Smith & Wesson, Glock, Heckler & Koch, Remington, and SIG Sauer.
In 2020, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, placed restrictions on the sale of police and military equipment to Hong Kong following the passing of the national security law. As a consequence, the HKPF — who are seeking to replace its decades-old Model 10 revolvers and MP5 submachine guns — are searching for suppliers elsewhere. In testing of MP5 replacements, the HKPF has expressed disappointment with the reliability of firearms from China and the ergonomics of those from Russia.
Traffic branch: A heavy, bright, yellow and blue reflective jacket is worn. In warmer weather, a lightweight yellow reflective vest is an alternative. Black knee-high leather riding boots are also worn with navy blue riding trousers, along with protective gear such as gloves and a helmet. A blue baseball-style cap is worn when not riding.
Rural patrol units: A heavy cargo shirt in olive green or disruptive pattern camouflage is worn with matching cargo trousers and a navy blue beret.
Other specialised units: In some specialised units, a heavy cargo shirt is worn in either olive green, dark blue, or disruptive pattern camouflage (depending on the unit), along with matching cargo trousers, and a navy blue beret or a dark blue baseball-style cap.
Ceremonial uniforms include either a white (similar to No.3 Warm weather ceremonial uniform) or navy blue tunic (similar to the old winter uniform). Sword design was based on 1897 pattern British Army infantry officer's sword and used for formal occasions such as parade out or Legal Opening Day. They are fitted with a black whistle on the front right pocket and insignia on the collar for commissioned officers. A Sam Browne belt is also worn.
The previous uniforms were reminiscent of the British colonial era, and were replaced with more modern, international, and cosmopolitan uniforms in 2005.
Retired summer uniform: A short-sleeved olive green tunic-style tropical field shirt, and olive green trousers worn with a black Sam Browne belt with shoulder strap. Female officers wore a short-sleeved beige shirt with a knee-length skirt until the mid 1990s when they were given the same uniform as male officers (without the shoulder strap). Bermuda shorts were worn by male officers instead of trousers from the early 20th century until the 1970s.
Retired winter uniform: A cornflower blue (or white, for commissioned officers) shirt with a blue and red striped necktie, worn under a heavy navy blue tunic coat and a Sam Browne Belt with shoulder strap, and navy blue trousers. The tunic may be removed and shirt sleeves folded up to the elbows when working indoors or in warmer weather.
Retired headwear: Pith helmets, turbans and conical hats were worn (depending on the ethnicity of the officer) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Berets, peaked caps and bowler hats (for female officers) were introduced in the early to mid-20th century. Baseball-style caps for some specialised units were also introduced in the early 21st century.
Until 1998, all officers wore a black whistle lanyard over the left shoulder running under the epaulet with the double cord attached to a whistle tucked in to the left breast tunic pocket. Officers who had received a Commissioner of Police Commendation or HE Governor's Commendation were issued a plaited black, yellow and red lanyard for CP's Commendation, or red for Governor's. 
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Most police vehicles in Hong Kong are white, with a blue and red 3M retroreflective stripe around on the sides of the vehicle with wording "警 Police 察" in white, the only exception being the armoured personnel carriers specially designed for the Police Tactical Unit, which are wholly dark blue and with wording "警 Police 察" on a light blue background in white on the sides of the vehicle. Most police vehicles in Hong Kong are equipped with both red and blue emergency vehicle lighting. The vehicles which are assigned to airport duties have additional yellow emergency vehicle lighting and yellow rooftops required for all airport vehicles. All police vehicles are government property and so bear licence plates starting with "AM".
Since 2008, the Hong Kong Police Force have brought in the use of Battenburg markings for new police vehicles of the Traffic Branch for better visibility on the roads. In addition, these new vehicles show the Force crest on the front part of the vehicle, which the Force has not used in the design of new vehicles for the last two decades.
The Hong Kong Police Force has ordered 10 new electric scooters for their officers to help reduce pollution in central Hong Kong. Emergency Unit, Police Tactical Unit, and Traffic Police have identification markings on the back of the car. For example, PTUD 1/3 means PTU D Team 1st Team 3rd car; EUKW 23 means Emergency Unit, Kowloon West region, 23rd car; and TKW 2 means Traffic unit, Kowloon West region, second car. Until 2007, EU, PTU, and TP vehicles had identification markings in a slightly different format. For example, “1/3 PTUD”, “23 EUKW”, and “2 TKW”.
In popular culture
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The Hong Kong Police Force and its previous incarnation have been the subject of many films and television shows, including the locally produced Police Story film series, The Criminal Investigator, Infernal Affairs film series, Cold War, and OCTB. English language films featuring the HKPF include Rush Hour and Skyscraper.
- William Caine, first Head of Police
- Nick Cheung, actor and director
- Peter Godber Chief Superintendent serving as Deputy District Commander of Kowloon who was embroiled in a bribery scandal in 1973 and absconded
- Eddie Hui, last Commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and first Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force
- Li Kwan-ha, first ethnic Chinese Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force
- Stephen Lo, Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force from 2015 to 2019
- Lui Lok, notorious corrupt police officer
- Joe Ma, actor
- Rupert Dover, English-born officer
- David John Jordan, English-born officer
- Tsui Po-ko, murderer and bank robber
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The force stopped hiring from overseas in 1994[...]
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Men with triad links and metal staffs entered the Yuen Long station in the New Territories looking for democracy protesters on trains. They laid into passengers indiscriminately; local police, apparently turning a blind eye, failed to respond. That incident did more than any other to discredit a police force that used to be called "Asia’s finest". Today, only Mrs Lam uses the phrase.
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- Cheng, Kris (19 July 2019). "The Friends of Hong Kong Association, formed of National People's Congress delegates and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference national committee members". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hong Kong – The Facts, published by the Information Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.
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- Official website
- Independent Police Complaints Council
- A History of the Hong Kong Police Force in Pictures
- Deflem, Mathieu, Richard Featherstone, Yunqing Li, and Suzanne Sutphin. 2008. “Policing the Pearl: Historical Transformations of Law Enforcement in Hong Kong.” International Journal of Police Science and Management 10(3):349-356.