Hong Kong’s vaunted police, once dubbed “Asia’s finest”, have been dragged in all directions during the weeks of pro-democracy protests under allegations of using excessive brute force on the protestors - in the city that is now supposedly one of the safest in the world.
The police force is facing difficulties to uphold confidence and leadership amid the city’s worsening political tensions and haphazard decision-making, according to observations from the serving and retired officers, politicians and security analysts.
“The lower ranks are feeling lost and confused,” said one retired officer who remains in close touch with former colleagues.
“There is clearly a lack of leadership at key moments and a sense that there is not enough support from the government and that is having an impact on commanders,” he added.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Wu Chi-wai was aghast as thick clouds of tear gas drifted through Hong Kong's streets and rubber bullets slammed into ranks of protesters.
Hong Kong's police are fighting allegations of using excessive violence against protesters, their headquarters besieged twice in the last week as calls for an independent inquiry into their tactics swell.
The allegations rose after the police deployed tear gas against a small but hardcore group of protesters, where some were throwing projectiles and using metal barriers as battering rams in an attempt to occupy the city's parliament on June 12.
In signs of goodwill, police have been seen washing out protesters’ eyes with bottled water after using pepper spray.
In favor of the goodwill, protesters have used their trademark yellow umbrellas to protect police in sub-tropical downpours.