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Police Overworked, Bad Health

The health of police officers is suffering because of their excessive work loads and the pressure that brings with it.

A recent health check among 5,907 public security officials in Harbin in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province revealed that more than 65 percent of the city's police officers are not in a good condition.

High cholesterol levels, fatty livers, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease are the top culprits.

Zhang Yanbin, director of the Harbin Public Security Hospital, said the diseases resulted from too much pressure at work, not enough rest and good food, and a lack of awareness of how to prevent health problems.

"The job of a police officer is very demanding," Zhang said. "They are always in a state of tension or exhaustion, both mentally and physically."

Their irregular lifestyles often lead to a decline in immunity, making them vulnerable to disease, Zhang added.

Besides chronic physical disease, mental illness is also threatening some police officers.

Late last year, Peng Xuesong, a 32- year-old police officer in Chongqing Municipality in southwest China, killed himself by leaping from his office building.

According to the will he left behind, he felt depressed and exhausted because of too much work and therefore decided to commit suicide.

Several days later, another police officer in the city died, 49-year-old Du Chenghua, deputy head of Chongqing Criminal Police.

The local hospital said he passed away from liver failure and a lung infection resulting from overwork.

Li Tong, captain of the second team of Nangang Branch of the Harbin Municipal Public Security Bureau, remembers how 20 police officers worked around the clock for two weeks to crush a gang of juvenile robbers in 2003.

"The arrest and interrogation process meant we worked day and night," Li recalled. "Many of us were on the verge of collapse and supported only by a strong will."

Five police members became ill after that, Li said.

Officers working in police stations also have a lot of work.

A policeman in the Dongfeng Police Station in Daowai District of Harbin said, on condition of anonymity, that too much work makes life almost unbearable at times.

"Criminal cases, social security issues, registered residence management, fire prevention... a grass-roots policeman has too many things to attend to," he said.

To relieve the heavy burden upon local policemen, Chongqing Public Security Bureau submitted a report to the Ministry of Public Security in January.

It demanded the addition of 10,000 police officers to the existing force in the next three years.

Statistics show that there are 11 police officers to every 10,000 people, much lower than international standards, the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald newspaper reported.

However, experts say the shortage of police officers is not the main reason for their failing health.

Existing laws empower police officers to manage too many social affairs while the general public also demands too much from them, all of which makes them feel exhausted, said Tang Yao, a professor with the Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

(China Daily March 14, 2005)

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