Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet approves law providing for undercover police

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Law enforcement officers would be allowed to work undercover to investigate crimes under a new law approved by the Cabinet yesterday.

Yen Da-ho (顏大和), administrative vice minister of justice, said the undercover investigation bill (臥底偵查法), if passed by the legislature, would improve the safety and interests of law enforcement officers.

"With the advancement of technology, it's necessary to enact a law allowing law enforcement officers to work undercover to fight such organized and international crimes as smuggling, drug dealing, firearms trading and corruption," Yen said after the weekly Cabinet affairs meeting.

The bill would require a law enforcement officer wishing to work undercover to obtain the approval of the highest supervisor of the police force, namely the director-general of the National Police Administration.

The director-general would then have to present a proposal for the undercover investigation to the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court for approval.

Approval will only be granted if it is deemed there is no other way to investigate the crime and that it endangers national security or social order.

The crimes include those associated with corruption, smuggling, narcotics, trading of securities and futures, firearms, money laundry, organized crimes, national security or cross-strait affairs.

For a period of six months while undercover, the authorized officer can use a false name, a false identification and household registration and other identification documents. This period can be extended for another six months.

The officer may also break the law as long as it does not endanger life or violate the social and national interest.

Such law-breaking activities, if approved by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court, would be exempt from punishment.

Undercover law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty would be eligible for compensation in accordance with the civil servant relief pension code.

To protect the safety of the law enforcement officer working undercover, the person could refuse to testify in court or during the investigation process with the approval of the court or prosecutor.

Commenting on the draft bill, Hsieh Cheng-an (謝政安), squad leader of Ta-an Precinct's Homicide Department, said that although the bill is well-intended, it may not help in their investigations.

"It's hard to break into an organized crime syndicate because they know almost everyone of us in the precinct," he said.

An investigator at the same precinct, who preferred to be identified only as Mr. Peng, said he was concerned about the safety of officers working undercover.

"I myself don't mind working undercover, but how do they ensure my safety and that of my family after completing the job?" he asked.

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