[EDITORIALS]Scandal in the policeA police officer apparently opened the handcuffs of a member of an organized crime ring being investigated by the prosecutors and helped the suspect run away; the handcuffs were reportedly given to another member of the gang. The public is shocked. The incident is too shameful to downplay as the misbehavior of one officer among 140,000 policemen.
The Seoul District Prosecutors Office was investigating the ring last October in connection with a murder. During the investigation, a suspect was beaten to death by the interrogators. The case became a major social issue; the justice minister and prosecutor general were replaced and the head of the district prosecutors office was reprimanded. The prosecutor handling the case was arrested. Special interrogation rooms were closed and overnight interrogations were banned. Prosecutorial investigation methods have greatly improved.
As it has been reported, the suspect ran away with his handcuffs on, then asked a police acquaintance to free him. The policeman couldn't find a key that worked in his own office, so he went to the precinct headquarters and found another key, with which he freed the suspect in the police parking lot.
This incident shows that the police need reforming more than the prosecution does. If the officer was on duty, his chain of command throughout the National Police Agency must be called to account. If an officer can freely get hold of handcuff keys, management is loose. Investigators should determine whether other policemen are maintaining cozy relations with criminal gangs.
Within the police, some said the incident occurred because of the conflicts with the prosecution over independent investigative rights for the police. It is unacceptable to pass the buck to others instead of correcting one's own conduct. The prosecution reportedly learned that the police officer often associated with members of the crime ring. The police suspect that the prosecution is investigating the case in an attempt to tame police power. Further investigations on the case will answer such doubts.