Self-discipline key for city’s armed police patrolmen
Published: Apr 24, 2014 06:43 PM

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

This week, interesting results from several different surveys came out that helped paint a clearer picture of certain groups in the city.

Shanghai Municipal Statistics Bureau revealed that the majority of migrant workers in Shanghai hope to settle here long term to enjoy the social welfare and other resources, which are better than in their hometowns.

Although some Shanghainese people would claim the migrant workers are stealing a part of the city's welfare cake, they have to admit that migrant workers play an important role in sectors such as domestic help, construction and the delivery industry. The city would not run so smoothly without this group.

Figures released by job hunting website put the average salary of people in Shanghai at 7,214 yuan ($1,163). Beijing and Shenzhen followed at 6,947 yuan and 6,819 yuan respectively. I guess the statistics may inspire some salary negotiations and job hopping for those who earn less than the average.

Meanwhile, a Fudan University survey found that the generation born in the 1980s in the Yangtze River Delta region earns an average 60,000 yuan annually, and that the most satisfactory marriages in this group are those in which the wife is older than husband. The generation attaches importance to intelligence, personality and living habits instead of fortune and blood type when choosing a partner. However, we are still likely to find the parents of this generation attaching more importance to whether their potential son or daughter-in-law has property and money.

But nothing attracted greater attention this week than the news that more than 1,000 patrol policemen in Shanghai have been armed with revolvers.

Gun possession is always an eye-catching topic in China, as the general public are not allowed to own guns, with tough punishments for those who break this law.

According to media reports, the terrorist attack at  Kunming railway station in Yunnan Province on March 1 is a major reason authorities decided to equip patrolmen with guns. A total of 29 people were killed by a gang of eight knife-wielding terrorists. The Kunming case struck an alarm bell. Facing terrorists or other extremists, patrol police can't protect either the general public or themselves without a gun. In the case of Kunming, while some police at the scene were armed, they lacked training and psychological preparation. One armed police official on the spot shot into the sky to try to scare off the terrorists. Obviously the action proved to be ineffective.

Rui Minghua, a senior police official, was quoted by media as saying that arming patrolmen shows the city's public security bureau is serious about keeping the public safe.

There are 44 items under six categories in the regulation governing the armed police in Shanghai. For instance, there are 15 specific situations under which a police official is allowed to use their weapon. Among them are hijacking, sabotage of a military facility, criminals with guns, and cases involving explosives, and toxic chemicals. Police must file a report every time their weapon is drawn, let alone fired.

Police need to pass both psychological and practical tests before being allowed to carry a gun. According to the Oriental Morning Post, the first batch of 1,000 policemen was chosen from 4,000 potential candidates.

At the same time, the public security bureau will keep a close eye on the psychological records of each armed police official. If any is suffering an emotional problem, a team of five psychologists will immediately intervene and make a decision regarding the officer's fitness to continue bearing a weapon.

Self-discipline among the armed officers is key. In daily life, we often hear people making threats, and in this highly stressed society, it's easy to ignite psychologically explosive situations. This results in people getting killed over trivial issues. From this perspective, easier gun access is very dangerous.

These concerns also apply to police officials. With guns to hand, a calm head is needed more than ever before.

Some police have already talked about the pressure of carrying a gun while on duty. They should be very careful and make sure their guns don't go missing. Otherwise, the consequences could be very serious. It's very probable that the guns will be coveted and targeted by criminals. So it's reasonable to say that the police must place as much importance on protecting the guns as they do on protecting the public. While there has already been some skepticism expressed among the public regarding the arming of police, I would say people need to be understanding of the pressure the police are under, and supportive. At the same time, the armed police need to earn the public's respect by showing they have the qualities required to responsibly bear arms.

The author is the managing editor of Global Times Metro Shanghai.