Time to dispel concerns about the bureauDespite strong resistance from the police, a bureau for police administration has been set up inside the Ministry of the Interior and Safety. On Monday, the ministry finished appointments for three divisions of the bureau. Heads of the two divisions aimed at helping personnel affairs of the police and supporting local police were recruited from senior police officers, and the remaining division is headed by an official from the ministry. Twelve of the 16 staffers of the bureau came from the police.
The Yoon Suk-yeol administration created the police administration bureau based on the need to control the law enforcement agency that will be mighty after its takes away investigative authority from the prosecution in September, as stipulated by a new law passed during the Moon Jae-in administration. But the Yoon administration hurriedly installed the bureau in the ministry to effectively control the police. That triggered an unprecedented group action by senior officers last month to resist the move. The National Police Agency (NPA) suspended Ryu Sam-young, the orchestrator of the group action, from his job as head of a police station in Ulsan.
But both the ministry and the police officers cannot be free from responsibility for ignoring public security in the process. Fortunately, hard-liners in the police withdrew a plan to hold a meeting for all police officers. Lee Sang-min, head of the ministry, and the presidential office promised to pay heed to voices of policemen on the frontline.
Now that the bureau is launched, related parties must resolve conflicts and stabilize the police. To do that, the National Assembly must hold a confirmation hearing for Yoon Hee-geun — the current NPA deputy commissioner general and the nominee to head the police organization — as soon as possible. Despite the need to stabilize the police, the governing People Power Party (PPP) and opposition Democratic Party (DP) failed to schedule the date for the hearing over their differences on summoning Ryu — the organizer of the first meeting of senior police officers — as a witness. President Yoon can appoint the nominee for NPA chief without an endorsement from the legislature. But it will be better for him to wait until lawmakers deliver their reaction.
Conflict will not subside soon. Some police officers are still attacking the establishment of the bureau for hurting independence of their investigation, and the DP has launched a committee for a legal review of the creation of the bureau. Above all, the public wants the police to keep political neutrality. The government must communicate with the police and the public more often and demonstrate fairness in operating the new bureau from now.