[EDITORIALS]Quality of Korean policingThe nation’s police will be split in two beginning in 2006, with one group working for the central government and the other for local governments. The national police will be in charge of intelligence, security, strategies and other investigatory work, and the local police will take care of crime prevention, public facilities protection, traffic control and special work on local health, hygiene and the environment. The local police forces’ work is closely related to the everyday life of local residents. We believe the introduction of the new local police system is desirable in that it cares for local residents in earnest and allows their participation in police work.
But there will be some negative effects of the new system. Local police will work for the heads of city, county and district governments. Currently, local government heads are elected officials with party affiliations. Thus, we worry about the possibility that police forces may be abused for political purposes. A local government head who is concerned about gathering more votes may ask police not to crack down on traffic or other violations in election campaign periods.
And we have seen many local government heads who were convicted of corruption charges. Once local autonomy is granted, it cannot be guaranteed that local government heads will not use a police force for their own political purposes.
We thus believe institutionalized devices to check local government heads are necessary. The central government should vigilantly control and monitor the police belonging to local governments. Also, we ask the central government to abolish the current election system in which local government heads are elected on party tickets, so that independence of the local police can be achieved.
The local police, even though they will receive some subsidies and support from the central government, will have to operate with the local governments’ budget eventually. This means that the financial situations of local governments may determine the quality of the police. Public safety and crime prevention work will be well managed for residents of rich areas while criminals could prosper in the jurisdiction of a poor one.
Unbalanced police work could cause the system to fail. The central government has to take measures including financial support for the police in poorer districts and cities.