The force is not with us

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The force is not with us

This year was not a good one for the nation’s police force. Ineffectiveness and disorganization were exposed by a series of appalling violent crimes while some officers were caught pocketing illegal funds handed out by owners of hostess bars. Recently, an officer was revealed to be involved in an armed robbery. The police have vowed to change, but to no avail.

A committee of private experts took the initiative to present a set of reformative policies for the police force. But the problem is that most of the proposals are not permissible under current law. To root out corruption, it suggests that the names of corrupt officers and associated civilians be disclosed. It also recommends that any officer who voluntarily turns him or herself in for misdeeds should receive lighter punishment.

The disclosure of names is employed by other advanced societies to rein in corruption. The Federal Ethics Commission of the United States requires lobbyists to file quarterly disclosure statements identifying the members of Congress to whom they directed gifts and contributions. But such a disclosure system is not enforced by law in Korea. And the easing of penalties for those who voluntarily turn themselves in is applied in cases of anti-trust, but not anti-corruption.

The committee points out that one of the biggest problems in our public safety system is that the underprivileged and weak make up the most victimized group. It suggests a cooperative public safety system to concentrate on protecting danger-prone neighborhoods by networking with communities and related government agencies. But this, too, may not be easy to do because the police prefer to work alone and protest the sharing of authority and information with other agencies.

The reform committee admits that putting the ideas into actions would be difficult. But it says it cannot come up with effective reforms regarding response and corruption under the current framework. The laws, system and customs don’t allow for it. The committee demanded that laws evolve according to the changes of the times and environment. The state of the police force should not be entirely blamed on legal and systematic problems. But it is time we weave out a new cooperative public safety system to better respond to highly modernized and connected crime and the risk it poses to public safety.
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