Police chief dispatches favoritism

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Police chief dispatches favoritism

Seoul police officers who had an inkling to ask for a favor in promotions can forget about it now.

Cho Hyun-oh, the freshly minted chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, has told each of the 225 officers who will be slated for promotion that he will try to stick to monthly evaluations to make personnel decisions and list candidates on the police intranet system. The process will become more transparent, he said.

“From now on, officers who can be promoted will be listed in the computer for all police in the country to see,” Cho said. “That way, all phone calls asking for favors will be rendered meaningless. We want to show that those with low scores can’t beat their colleagues with higher points [simply because of their connections].”

Cho explained that the move is designed to address complaints within the department that unqualified officers have been promoted thanks to their networks in political circles.

“I’m telling them [officers] to focus on their work,” Cho added. “Every police chief has talked about making fair personnel decisions and about blocking outside influences. I am trying to make systematic improvements, too.”

The national police came in dead last in a December survey by the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission on integrity and transparency of 487 state-run agencies. Cho pointed out that the last place showing had the most to do with problems surrounding personnel decisions.

“When an agency in the executive branch is said to have the lowest level of transparency, then the public will lose faith,” he said. “Unless we can find appropriate solutions to the problem, the public’s disappointment will only grow larger. We’re only trying to find our rightful place.”

Cho met with the each of the 225 officers after his remarks. During his inauguration speech last Friday, Cho had offered to meet individually with anyone who wanted to express a case for promotion. After dozens of calls for appointments, Cho decided to meet them individually on the same day. His sessions last seven hours.

One officer who attended the session called Cho’s move “an unprecedented, radical experiment.” But others said the jury is still out on whether Cho’s tactics would work.

The chief himself admitted he won’t be able to satisfy everyone. “I am fully aware that my attempts won’t change everything right away,” Cho said.

By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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