Call for reform in police forceCommissioner of the National Police Agency Cho Hyun-oh stepped down this week to take responsibility for an attempted cover-up by a local station in Suwon that dealt incompetently with an emergency call from a rape victim who was later murdered.
At a press conference, Cho apologized for the death of the 28-year-old woman and said that “the police caused a tragedy due to their lack of sincerity [in handling the case] and let the public down with their brazen lies.”
But the public’s sense of outrage will hardly be appeased by a token apology and resignation.
However, the reputation of Korean police already took a battering long before this case, which merely highlighted how incompetent they can be in failing to track down the victim even as she staked her life to give specific directions to her location. Police officers have also been making headlines by attracting probes by the prosecution for taking bribes from owners of hostess bars, and they are now associated with corruption and impotency.
The public security system must be entirely overhauled. In the latest debacle, the emergency call center failed to coordinate and relay the victim’s information to dispatched inspectors and officers. The police were in fact looking in the wrong places while the crime was taking place. The Suwon police responded lackadaisically and preferred staying in the office rather than fighting crime on the scene. Simple disciplinary measures won’t do. The entire police system from recruiting to training and inspections must be revamped. This will require the creation of police task forces aimed at rooting out corruption whenever such cases emerge.
In the past, many senior figures have been dismissed and demoted, but we have not seen much sign of improvement. The government must invite civilians and experts to also participate in building a reform committee.
The first job should be overhauling the centralized and top-down police system. In the United States, inspectors and detectives have a huge say in how their investigations proceed, but Korean officers cannot move without orders from their bosses. Officers are like puppets at the mercy of those above, and as seen in the Suwon case, they are not given sufficient authority to deal with cases as they emerge.
The president must endorse sweeping changes in the way the police force is organized, otherwise society will lack the kind of protection it demands and deserves.