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Poor health takes toll on police force
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-24 05:35

Poor health resulting from overwork has become a factor in the deaths of a number of Chinese policemen. The Ministry of Public Security is responding by making annual physical examinations and paid holidays for officers mandatory.

The ministry reported yesterday that of the 414 officers who died in the line of duty last year, 154, or 37.2 per cent, died from health-related causes.

Cardio-vascular diseases, which claimed 115, were listed as the No 1 killer.

Fan Jingyu, deputy director of the ministry's personnel bureau, admitted that at least half of all Chinese policemen, especially those who work among the public, suffer from poor health because of overwork.

Ministry investigations in Beijing and Tianjin municipalities and Hebei Province found that officers work an average of 20 extra hours every week.

"Some criminal and grass-roots policemen even work 50 extra hours a week," Fan said. "Based on the average figure, each policeman works an extra 120 days a year."

He said a severe police shortage adds to officers' heavy workloads. Developed countries usually maintain a ratio of 35 police per 10,000 citizens. However, in China that ratio is about 12 per 10,000 citizens, lower than in Brazil and India.

One part of improving the situation may lie in giving officers annual physical examinations. The ministry report said that in Yiyang, in Central China's Hunan Province, check-ups for 2,760 police officers showed that more than 1,800 were suffering from various kinds of diseases last year. More than 30 were found to have cancer.

In response, the ministry has required public security bureaux at all levels to give officers free annual physical check-ups and paid annual holidays.

"We had such policies three years ago, but now we're making them mandatory," Fan said.

A nationwide inspection will be conducted next month to make sure the policies are carried out, he said.

Huang Pei, director of the Xiaoguan police station in Beijing's Chaoyang District, said most of his officers already enjoy these two benefits.

"But things are not that optimistic in rural areas," he said. "I'm glad that the ministry is now trying to protect the rights of rural policemen."

However, Li Huiling, an officer in charge of personnel in the public security bureau of Gongyi, a county-level city in Central China's Henan Province, said the policy on annual leave might create major obstacles during implementation.

"Very few of us enjoy yearly holidays as we're short of hands," she said. "If the ministry requires us to grant annual leave to officers, rearranging police deployment will become a headache."

Gongyi now has fewer than 800 officers for about 800,000 residents. Li said officers are often asked to patrol from 8 pm to midnight after they go off duty at 5 pm, and "there's no pay for that," Li reviewed.

But she mentioned free annual physical check-ups are already provided with special funding from the local government.

Ministry figures show that others died last year while trying to apprehend suspects. Their compensations varied from 100,000 yuan (US$12,300) to 1 million yuan (US$123,000) according to the circumstances.

(China Daily 02/24/2006 page2)

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