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A work log of officers on the first Chinese Police Day
By Yuan Yuan  ·  2021-01-18  ·   Source: NO.3 JANUARY 21, 2021
A police officer helps a kid to try on the police uniform in Feixi County, Anhui Province in east China, on January 10 (XINHUA)

When Zhang Yueli, a police officer, started his day at midnight on January 10, the temperature outside was minus 18 degrees Celsius, a record low for the region. Zhang stepped into a tent at a checkpoint near a high-risk novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) zone.

He had worked as a guard at this checkpoint near Xiaoguozhuang Village, Shijiazhuang City of Hebei Province in north China, for eight days in a row since the first confirmed case was reported from the village on January 2. He wore two sets of protective suits to shield him from the wind. The inner side of the goggles he wore blurred as the vapor produced by his breath froze. "The cold wind on the face was like small knives," he told China Central Television (CCTV).

The tent was set up on January 9. They managed to install wire in the tent for lighting and boiling water. The bottled water was frozen, so he had to smash the bottle to break the ice and squeeze it into the kettle to boil.

With him were another 21 local policemen. They took turns resting in a bus at the checkpoint. "It is the first Police Day today," Zhang said. "If not for the virus, we would have raised the police flag, saluted it and renewed the oath at the time of joining the police."

Since the first confirmed case was reported in Shijiazhuang, the number of confirmed cases crossed 400 by January 13. More than 20,000 police officers have been put on duty in the city at checkpoints for epidemic control. "Unlike the criminals we fought in the past, this time the 'criminal' is invisible," Zhang said.

Since the epidemic first hit China a year ago, police officers nationwide have been mobilized to help contain the spread wherever there is an outbreak, maintaining security and stability while offering various kinds of help. It is common for them to multitask, including helping to deliver meals and dump trash for quarantined residents in communities.

Data from the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) show that in the first half of 2020, 169 police officers died on duty across the country amid the fight against COVID-19.

Safety protectors

At 9:00 a.m. on that day, nearly 1,000 km away, a flag-raising ceremony was held at an open space in the public security bureau of Jiangdu District, Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, east China. Over 80 police officers attended the ceremony.

Wang Xin, a police officer from the bureau, had been looking forward to this special day since July 2020 when China made the decision to designate January 10, corresponding with the emergency call number of 110, as Police Day.

Wang joined the police in December 2016, and he remembers every "first moment" of his career—the first time he took the oath under the police flag, the first time he got his work ID, and the first time he was assigned to deal with an incident. He captured all these first moments in a short video in memory of his past four years.

Yan Wei, the 33-year-old deputy section chief of the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) and patrol division from Suzhou, Jiangsu, also remembers his "first moments." He can never forget his first time as chief bomb disposal officer in the field. "I could only hear myself breathing inside my helmet," Yan told CCTV. "As I walked step by step toward the explosive device, it was as if everything was in slow motion. Making every citizen safe is the responsibility and mission of SWAT forces."

As a senior officer, he has 15 years of experience in bomb disposal. His primary tasks include dealing with explosives at crime scenes and disposing of unexploded ordnance as well as security checks at important events.

Police officers in many parts of China held open house events on this special day, offering visitors a closer look at how they train and work. In Lhasa, capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China, a SWAT team performed high-risk operations displaying hostage rescue and counter-terrorism skills. Visitors could check out police equipment and experience the life of SWAT officers. Specialized firearms, including submachine guns, sniper rifles and tear-gas shells, were on display.

"The police are the guardians of fairness, justice, social stability as well as people's happy life and work," Yan said. "I wish the police siren would never have to ring. But we promise when you're in trouble, we have confidence and capabilities to overcome all the difficulties."

At 7:27 p.m. on that day, a police station in Yangxin County, Hubei Province in central China, received a call asking for urgent help to fight a fire in a local mountain.

The policeman on duty, She Shaomiao, immediately organized a team of police officers and firefighters to fight the fire. After over an hour's hard work, the fire was put out with no injuries to local residents. At 9 p.m. they walked down the mountain, soaked in sweat. "It has made our first Police Day more meaningful," he told local media.

The emergency number 110, first introduced in China on January 10, 1986, is the quickest way for seeking police help. Information from the MPS shows that now, police receive an average of 300,000 emergency calls every day, concerning various issues including family disputes, accidents and natural disasters.

Life savers

Criminal investigation is one of the major tasks that policemen deal with.

With limited investigation technologies, police officers in China experienced a hard time in their early years. A recent fantasy crime thriller Caught in Time, featuring some cops spending years chasing down a gang in the 1990s, has been a hit in the Chinese film market. In those years, there were hardly any video camera on the street, making it harder for the police to find clues.

Now the latest technologies such as big data, video surveillance, artificial intelligence and DNA analysis have brought higher efficiency to criminal investigation.

In 2017, Gao Chengyong, a serial killer who murdered 10 women and an 8-year-old girl between May 1988 and February 2002, was arrested after a DNA comparison.

On November 28, 2020, after two decades on the run, Lao Rongzhi, a female fugitive suspected of involvement in the murder of seven people, was arrested by police. Big data analysis played a major role in this case.

For 10 consecutive years, the number of serious and violent crimes reported across the country has been declining. Figures from the MPS show China's homicides per 100,000 people are among the lowest in the world, making China one of the safest countries on the planet, and the Chinese people's satisfaction with public order is as high as 95.55 percent.

China has also sent over 2,700 police officers to nine countries and regions as peacekeepers over the past 20 years, including Timor-Leste, Liberia and Haiti. Eight officers have lost their lives on those missions.

"In an age of peace, the police force is a team that sacrifices the most while making the greatest contribution," Zhu Mingjian, former deputy chief of the public security department in Guangdong Province in south China, said at a forum on January 8. "To set up Police Day is the best salute to the heroes who have gone and a great encouragement to every police officer who is with us now."

(Print Edition Title: On Call 24/7)   

Copyedited by Sean Connolly

Comments to yuanyuan@bjreview.com

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