[EDITORIALS]Police cannot defend crime

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[EDITORIALS]Police cannot defend crime

Since the detention of former National Police Agency Commissioner-General Lee Moo-young a month ago, there has been steady support within the police for his cause. Mr. Lee is suspected of involvement in the cover-up of the Susie Kim murder case.

First there were scores of messages posted on the police agency's Web site by lower-ranking officers, proclaiming the injustice of the arrest of their former boss. Now the commissioner of the South Chungcheong Provincial Police Agency has posted a message urging that letters and books be mailed to Mr. Lee.

The first wave of messages by lower-ranking officers reflected discontent with what appeared to them as scapegoating the police while prosecutors and intelligence officials involved in crimes often went untouched. There were references to Mr. Lee as "The Father of the Police" and the idol of the 150,000-member force. They were inappropriate in their blind defense of someone suspected of a crime, but could be brushed aside as a first reaction to the shock of hearing that their former boss might be a criminal.

But the South Chungcheong police chief's admission that he has personally sent Mr. Lee a letter of encouragement makes the matter more serious. He also encouraged his subordinate officers to do the same.

Provincial police commissioners are at the highest level of the police organization, and they have under their command thousands of officers. They are sworn to enforce the law. It is unconscionable that a top police officer has used the organization's communication network to defend openly a suspected criminal and told his subordinates to do the same.

The police should not be defending anyone against charges of helping to cover up a murder. The chief's action was inappropriate especially considering his position as a commander in an organization where the integrity of the chain of command is crucial. If his action was personal, he should be personally punished. If he acted as part of an organized effort among police commanders, other steps should be taken.

The police do not need this controversy. Public trust has already dropped because of their incompetence in maintaining order late last year, when there were scores of violent crimes. Wrongdoers in their organization should be punished, not defended and supported.
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