Communication failures of cops in watchdog report

Top News | Staff Reporter 14 Jan 2020

Police commanders failed to communicate with each other when firing tear gas and rubber bullets on June 12, the day protesters besieged the Legislative Council to stop the fugitive bill's passage, a draft report by a police watchdog has said.

The Independent Police Complaints Council is preparing an interim investigation report looking into several key dates of the unrest, including the clashes on June 9, June 12 and July 1 last year.

A draft has been completed and subjected to members' scrutiny before it being discussed at a meeting this week, according to sources.

It is understood that the 300-page report has found that when one commander decided to deploy tear gas canisters to the crowd on June 9, the other two commanders were not notified about his decision.

And when one commander decided to escalate the use of force by ordering subordinate officers to fire rubber bullets, the rest were unaware about it as well.

Police reportedly explained that the confrontation zone was too large for effective communication and that it was difficult to monitor the whole area without a helicopter, adding that it has strengthened communication since.

But the report is unlikely to have coverage about accountability, as IPCC chairman Anthony Neoh has said it will only give "a big picture" of the clashes.

Another incident investigated was the dispersal operation in front of CITIC Tower, into which protesters fled in panic amid tear gas fired from both sides of the road.

Police failed to classify peaceful and violent protesters as they did not dismiss the lawful rally outside the building, according to an IPCC source.

The report also questioned why police failed to realize that the Legco was a target - even after there were clashes in two earlier protests on June 9 and June 12 - and did not put officers outside the building.

In response, police said it was difficult to secure all entrances of the Legco complex and they decided to retreat after a risk assessment.

The issues of police using excessive force and whether sufficient measures have been taken for citizens to identify frontline officers were among the investigation.

Some IPCC members believe current guidelines regarding when to "cease fire" while using tear gas are unclear.

Moreover, there have been internal calls backing protesters' demands to establish an independent commission of inquiry.

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