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The IPCC is handicapped, says former adviser Gerry McNeilly


Hong Kong's police watchdog is handicapped and will need more authority to conduct a proper review into police's handling of protests last year, said former member of its international expert panel Gerry McNeilly.

McNeilly, the former head of Office of the Independent Police Review Director of Ontario, Canada, also questioned the IPCC's comment effectively said there was no collusion between police and attackers in Yuen Long last July, saying he would not have preferred drawing such conclusion.

Read the edited excerpt taken from Citizen New's interview with McNeily. (Q= Citizen News)

Gerry McNeily (credit: OIPRD)

On his overall impression on IPCC’s report:

“As the international expert panel had indicated, and I was working with IPCC before the international panel was pulled together, one of the concerns that was laid out [is] that the way the mandate or the structure of IPCC is- they are limited in exactly how deep a review they could do. So that was always clear.”

“I think under the circumstances, from my reading of the report, they try to provide a lot of information that maybe not everyone was aware of. They gave some chronologies of some of the major incidents and made a fair amount of recommendations, some general in nature but some specific that are reasonable under the circumstances. Had they had more authority to to interview, to summon people, to demand that police, protesters, and officials [to] subject themselves to being interviewed, as I had here in Ontario, Canada, I think you would have got a report that would have been able to give some more specific recommendations as to how to try to deal with the police actions and the protesters action during this difficult period.”

“But I think under the circumstances in my reading of the report, it's a factual reports. A lot of it is based on media reporting, so they relied heavily on the media for the information they provided in the report. Unable to fact check some of it because of the lack of interviewed specific people or people generally about certain occurrences. I think they tried to paint a picture- this is what was going on as best as we can tell you, and we have provided you information as best as we can, under the circumstances given our authority and legislative role.”

On Hong Kong police's use of force last year, and whether it was as IPCC report suggested largely restrained:

“Without answering that specifically, let me say I don't condone any excessive use of force by the police under any circumstances. I believe that certain actions could have been taken by the police, that were not in my view taken early in this matter, to try to liaise with the protesters to provide an opportunity for free protests to take place.”

“But clearly, in my opinion, when I look at videos, I saw that there were actions be taken that I didn't condone. So if you want to say- that there appear to be excessive force used in that occurrence. But in all fairness, I'm gonna have to say that I saw that video and I saw it go both ways. So you know, that makes it difficult to comment.”

“If I was doing this myself, I would want to talk to police officers on the front line and I want to talk to protesters on the front line to know if there has been allegations of excessive force being used. What prompted it, what caused it? And from videos I looked at, the police did come out to use force. They were provoked to some extent, as were the protester provoked in some circumstances for their retaliation.”

“As I said in my G20 report very early on, part of the biggest thing for me is the ability to, to liaise with protesters to find ways to allow them to peacefully protest to find ways to communicate with them. And I know that maybe in the early stages that Hong Kong protests that were taking place on somewhere along the line. The communications line broke down, and I think that led to some of the circumstances we subsequently saw. So I really believe that there's a lot to be learned from any police forces.”

On enforcement within police and making sure police officers complied with the guidelines:

“I think the IPCC is clear and correct in saying more teaching in most scenario based situation and more wider teaching and learned in regards to the use of force and how it should be applied, is absolutely necessary. I would have gone further and talk more specifically about how that could be implemented and brought down to the rank and file officers. But again, the IPCC does not have the mandate to go that far.”

“It's not just the training - structural, management has to be overseen on the ground. In my opinion, you have to have senior officers who are also well trained and well versed in use of force, not someone who has been working in and out of the area of policing and no actual front line knowledge of use of force...Senior officers...must be able to direct them, they must be able to call back officers when they exercise in use of force and and inappropriately, and call out officers or remove officers rofm the frontline if they've taken things upon themselves... As I made in the G20 report,you just can't talk about it, just can't show officers a video about it. You have to actually roleplay it, you actually have to actually have people train them first, including senior officers who you expect to direct.”

On the police to regain public trust:

“Public trust is a big issue, and you're familiar with Peelian principles? ‘The police's out of public and the public out of police’. You can paraphrase the differences of ‘the public needs the police, police needs the public’.”

“When you have protests, you put police at the frontline who are aware of protests, aware of use of force, but also very aware of how to communicate with people. Most of the people in my opinion are protesting and as we've seen in the United States, are peaceful, they mean to do the right thing and what's the right thing to be done.”

On whether police should acknowledge mistake:

“Police have to admit that there's some accountability in your actions on what you've done. And you know, and others have to admit too. So it's a two way street. I saw the mayor of Chicago, recently talking about accountability and, not everyone here has done the right thing. But we have to start doing the right thing. So, for me, it starts from the top. And, yes, if I were commissioner of the police, I would not hesitate knowing who I am to say, look, we made mistakes. And we're going to fix those mistakes. And we can only fix those mistakes if we engage with you, and you tell us exactly how you expect us to fix those mistakes.”

“I think what started by admitting that mistakes were made, admitting that we can do things better and admitted that ‘yes, we're going to improve there's room for improvement’, but you have to start with making in that first admission, that mistakes were made. We could have done things differently and better, yes, that's very important. If that's not done, you're not going to be able to, to get that trust and confidence in the public because you're not admitting you're wrong in any way. I mean, that's what we tell children, right? If you did something wrong, you did something wrong. And I could understand that, and I will deal with you accordingly. But the first part is trust.”

On how does the lack of investigation power hindered the IPCC:

“I think the problem for me is that [the IPCC] was handicapped, because they had to rely on on information that was not directly gained by them. I think they tried to do the best they could in this report under those circumstances. But that's why I emphasize that it's absolutely necessary and still is that the legislation gives them the ability to do a proper review, a proper examination of the circumstances of police interaction with members of the public under any circumstances.”

On IPCC’s comment on Yuen Long about no evidence to prove a collusion between force and men in white:

“It goes back to what I just indicated, they didn't have the facts and the information, and with the inability to speak to people, it is difficult to come to any type of conclusion about if there was collusion or not.”

“Based on the information, I probably myself would not have come to any conclusion, but I can't speak for others...I would just simply stated the fact- this is the information I have. This is what I've heard from people. I have no way to corroborate any of it, and therefore I’m unable to say anything further about it.”

On police’s use of massive stop and search against protesters, that was strongly rejected by Ontario’s police watchdog at the time-

“I don't think it works and I think I call it out in my G20 report this stop and searches, when people were corralled, if I can say that. I am highly against that tactics. I disagree with it. I think police infringes a lot of rights. In my youth, I went to protest and I would not have wanted to be stopped and searched because my intentions were always honorable. They're always there for the right reasons. And I think it's an infringement to arbitrarily or to frequently use this tactic, the police way to get crowd control.”

“If you gonna detain someone and especially in Canada, we've been very clear about, the detention is that there has to be a purpose. You have to be investigating something, and you have to be in the commission of a crime, or something of that nature. You just can't arbitrarily detain people without having a cause or reason. And if you do, and if you stop someone to ask them some questions, and that person refuses to participate, you either arrest them and tell them why you're gonna arrest them or let them go. So when you stop and search of people and corral them in a crowd, you are in fact, in my opinion, again, just in my opinion, illegally detaining them, and that's contrary to law.”


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