Taipei police were criticized for improper procedures and clerical errors yesterday as two city councilors took up the case of a severely mentally handicapped man who has been fined 197 times over a four-year period and faces a total of NT$460,000 (almost US$14,000) in penalties as a result.
Taipei City councilors Lan Shih-tsung (藍世聰) and Liu Yao-ren (劉耀仁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held a press conference yesterday to accuse police of not following proper procedures.
They said the man, surnamed Lee, had been fined repeatedly for offenses such as street vending between 2001 and last year.
Lee has not paid the fines and has been pressed by government agencies to pay up.
When Liu asked how a person formally categorized by the government as being severely mentally handicapped could possibly commit so many offences, the deputy commanding officer of Taipei City Police's Traffic Corps, Chen Shih-hsiung (陳世雄), said "Being mentally handicapped does not affect his ability to sell things."
Lee's brother, however, told the press conference, that if his brother was capable of doing business, then "as his brother I wouldn't be worried about his survival."
Lan and Liu highlighted what they said were a number of irregularities with the tickets. They said that on some tickets, the supervisor's signature was missing and on some Lee's signature was missing. They asked how Lee could have been fined twice in the space of five minutes in October 2003 for offences in two different areas -- Shilin and Tienmu -- and why on some of the tickets the name had obviously been changed from someone else's name to Lee's.
Chen said that most of the examples cited were caused by "administrative errors."
He said that when police officers had tried to ticket Lee for illegal vending, Lee had said that the stall was not his, so police made the ticket out to the person Lee named. However, in the absence of the owner, the regulations authorized the police to penalize the person actually performing the offence, Chen said.
Lee only carries a photocopy of his identity card and that the signature on the tickets do not match Lee's signature, raising questions about police properly checking the identity of those they ticket.
"How is it that 87 police officers have issued tickets despite a clear case of a mismatch between the identity of the person being ticketed and the signature produced?" Lan asked. "Are the police in cahoots with the vendors? Is it a question of police not wanting to bother with checking identity in order to maintain their targets -- or is it a case of forgery?"
Chen admitted it wasn't proper procedure to fine people in the absence of proper proof of identity.
The city councilors suggested that other vendors might be using Lee as a scapegoat. They also said that police might be conspiring with these vendors in order to reach their ticket quotas -- or just not doing their jobs properly.