The police's failure in dealing with the violent attacks at Yuen Long MTR station drew the largest number of complaints against the force since the anti-government protests began in June, its watchdog said on Tuesday.
But most of the complaints pertained to being unable to reach the emergency services hotline on July 21, when it was jammed by 24,000 calls in the space of three hours.
At an open meeting hosted on Tuesday afternoon by police and the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), the watchdog revealed that as of Monday, the force's Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) had received 623 complaint cases, involving 822 allegations, from 2,823 people stemming from public order events related to the fugitive bill, which has since been withdrawn.
Around two-thirds of the complaints were about alleged police misconduct and neglect of duty.
The IPCC's chairman, senior lawyer Anthony Neoh SC, said 71 of the allegations were related to the Yuen Long attack on the late night of July 21. There were also a total of 57 allegations against the police's actions on June 12, when protesters besieged government headquarters and the legislature to prevent lawmakers from discussing the fugitive bill.
"The Yuen Long case has in particular received many complaints. Among them, 54 accused the police of neglecting their duties," Neoh said.
The chairwoman of the council's publicity and survey committee Lisa Lau Man-man echoed this: "The number is particularly high but complainants mainly claimed they failed to call 999."
The police were also criticised for taking 35 minutes to send officers to Yuen Long MTR station, where about 100 armed men dressed in white T-shirts attacked extradition bill protesters and other passengers on July 21. The attackers had fled by the time officers arrived at 11.20pm, leaving 45 people injured.
Police explained soon after the incident that the emergency lines had been jammed by two calls per second. Many calls were thus unanswered as thousands tried to report the attacks between 10.45pm and 1.45am, according to police, especially after online appeals for people to call the line, allegedly with the intention to jam it.
Neoh also said the police did not receive any complaints about officers failing to display their identifying numbers on their uniform, although it had drawn wide criticism and was the subject of at least four judicial reviews against the force.
Both Neoh and the head of the CAPO, chief superintendent Tammy Mak Wai-man, said police could generally locate the officer concerned if complainants were able to provide the time and location of the incident, even if they did not know the officer's warrant number.
The meeting also saw the introduction of two new IPCC members appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - former Bar Association chairman Paul Lam Ting-kwok SC and former deputy ombudsman Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping.
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