Prosecution vs. policeA controversial debate between the prosecution and the police has been rekindled over the realignment of the authority to investigate criminal allegations.
The Democratic Party will present a revised bill of related laws in a day or two, and the police also plan to submit opinions to the political community. The issue revolves around how to revise Articles 195 and 196 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which detail the prosecution’s exclusive authority to supervise criminal investigations over judicial police.
Lawmakers want the prosecution to continue to exercise its rights to investigate and to demand the replacement of police officers and take disciplinary actions against them when necessary, but also allow the police to investigate criminal cases.
The most important thing in this debate is to ensure we don’t put the emphasis on a “reapportionment of authority.” Rather, we need to explore how we can increase citizens’ convenience and protect human rights. Since the Kim Dae-jung administration sparked a heated debate over the right to investigate in 1999, the police have been consistently demanding the independent right to probe, while the prosecution have argued against this, citing human rights issues and a lack of capability by the police. Although a deliberative body for the realignment of the authority to investigate was established in 2004, it failed to produce the amended bill despite 15 meetings on the subject, mainly due to a struggle between the two sides.
In the meantime, serious damage may be inflicted upon citizens, as shown by a recent case where the victim of a minor traffic accident faced overlapping interrogations.
If a case requires no judgment from the prosecution or can be handled by the imposition of a penalty or a fine for negligence, it is preferable to grant more power to the police, with specified limits. Among 2.2 million criminal cases last year, for example, driving offenses accounted for about 25 percent of the total. We hope that the prosecution will strive to create a compromise plan for legalizing the investigative rights of the police in some cases related to public security. In particular, we expect that they will approach the problem with the idea of ensuring checks and balances when it comes to power.
However, it would be premature to stipulate that the police should be given the right to investigate, namely because of previous cases where the police themselves have been involved in corruption and human rights violations.
The first thing police should do is restore public trust, then they might be granted the right to investigate.