on 18 December 1997
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Measures to Tackle Police Indebtedness
This paper reports on the current situation of Police officers with unmanageable debts and sets out the measures in tackling the problem.
2.The Commissioner of Police is determined to maintain a clean and honest Police Force. He maintains a strict policy against indebtedness of Police officers as serious pecuniary embarrassment might compromise the integrity of the officers concerned. Police officers are required to be prudent and temperate in their financial affairs and encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Accordingly, the Force management has developed a comprehensive strategy for preventing, identifying and dealing with the indebtedness of Police officers.
3.The Force management has adopted the following preventive measures -
- conducting indebtedness awareness training for both new recruits and serving Police officers;
- launching a Healthy Lifestyle Campaign in 1997 and promoting the virtue of thrift by discouraging gambling and overspending; and
- organising various sports, recreational and cultural activities regularly to prevent Police officers from spending their pastime by gambling and overspending.
4.The Force management has also taken the following measures for identifying and monitoring indebted Police officers -
- issuing administrative guidelines outlining steps to be taken at different levels of management within the Force to monitor and to tackle Police indebtedness. Based upon experience of handling Police officers who have fallen into debt, a list of indicators of indebtedness has been drawn up to heighten the awareness of the management on the extent of indebtedness of individual officers;
- interviewing those Police officers who are the subjects of enquiries from financial institutions or have their names listed on the notices of tax recovery;
- conducting six-monthly surveys on indebtedness among identified Police officers; and
- cross-checking loan applications received by the Police Welfare Fund and the Police Credit Union to ensure that Police officers do not over borrow from different sources within the Force for the same purpose.
5.The Force management has taken the following actions to deal with indebted Police officers-
- organising series of workshops to provide group support and advice on prudent personal financial management to participating Police officers; and
- offering individual counselling by Police Clinical Psychologists, Police Welfare Officers and specially trained District Staff Relations Officers to Police officers who require assistance.
6.Whilst the Force management will render every assistance to Police officers who are indebted because of unforeseen or compassionate circumstances, there is no sympathy for officers who borrow simply because of indulgence in overspending or gambling. In particular, Police officers who become indebted under the following circumstances may be subject to criminal and / or disciplinary proceedings -
Current Situation of Police Officers with Unmanageable Debts
- illegal gambling; or
- having financial obligation to any person or organisation other than as permitted by the Acceptance of Advantage (Governor's Permission) Notice or the Police General Orders.
7.The Force management closely monitors the situation by conducting six-monthly surveys on Police officers who have unmanageable debts. The Commissioner of Police regularly reports the results of such surveys through Quarterly and Annual Progress Reports to the Public Accounts Committee.
8.The latest survey for the first half of 1997 indicates a continued decrease in the number of Police officers who have unmanageable debts. The figure dropped from 145 for the second half of 1994 to 132 and 87 respectively for the first and second half of 1995, 85 and 78 respectively for the first and second half of 1996, and further to 75 for the first half of 1997. All 75 officers in the first half of 1997 were junior Police officers. The Force management has also studied the causes of unmanageable debts. Overspending and gambling account for more than 60% of the Police officers with unmanageable debts.
9.There has been significant improvement in the general situation of Police indebtedness during the past four years. In particular, the decrease in the number of unmanageable debts cases demonstrate the effectiveness of the strategy adopted by the Commissioner of Police to tackle the problem. Despite the sustained improvement, we are not complacent. The Commissioner of Police will keep under review the effectiveness of the various measures to tackle this problem.