Sun, Aug 08, 2010 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE : Police divided by underworld rule

ARMED WITH BLANKSAn officer in Taipei County said a new rule created a situation where the police were being asked to ‘kill the enemy without bullets’

BY JIMMY CHUANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

A new rule, introduced last month, whereby police officers must obtain approval from their supervisors whenever they need to come into contact with underworld figures, has left law enforcement agencies divided.

The new rule, which states: “Any contact with gang members is technically prohibited at all times, but will be considered and approved for investigative purposes. [To this end] a paperwork application and a detailed report afterwards will be required.”

Drawing a line between police and gang members became a priority for the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police Agency (NPA) following the murder on May 28 of Taichung gangster Weng Chi-nan (翁奇楠), which occurred in the presence of four senior officers.

Investigators subsequently came to the conclusion that Weng had close connections to many Taichung City Police Department officers.

The new rule stipulates that paperwork submitted by an officer must be approved by more than three colleagues, including the precinct chief.

The post-contact report must be submitted no more than one day after the event.

For “emergency cases,” an officer can file his request to his superior verbally, but the paperwork must still be submitted within 12 hours.

Furthermore, meetings or contact between a police officer and a gang member must not be carried out at any “illegal” or “inappropriate” location, such as illegal casinos or hostess bars.

A police officer cannot accept bribes, leak any classified information to a gang member, become involved in drug dealing or gamble during contact.

The NPA said that before similar regulations came into force in Japan and Singapore, the opinions of police officers and social workers were taken into account.

Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), whose agency oversees the nation’s approximately 80,000 police officers, said the rule was designed to prevent unduly close relationships between the police and gangsters. The opinions of several senior officers were also instrumental in drafting the new regulations.

“‘Relationships’ are permissible after an application has been filed, but ‘friendships’ are prohibited,” Jiang said.

Central Police University president Hou You-yi (侯友宜), a former director-general of the NPA, said that the new rule was “necessary, given the difficult times police are experiencing at the moment.”

“When you discipline yourself strictly, everybody will respect you, including the gangsters you are dealing with,” Hou said.

While it may be necessary to establish certain “relationships” with gangsters, Hou said, there are many alternatives.

“Gangsters will still respect and trust a cop if the latter follows the rules because it tells them that the officer is a man of his word,” Hou said.

Cheng Jui-lung (鄭瑞隆), the chairman of the Graduate Institute of Criminology at National Chung Cheng University, said that while new rules would be supported, enforced and carried out, it was natural that they would engender some complaints.

“Many years ago, a new rule stipulating that helmets were always required when riding a motorcycle and scooter was criticized and generated complaints, but there’s no question it was the right decision,” Cheng said.

A sergeant from Taipei County Police Department’s Younghe Precinct was more critical, saying on condition of anonymity that the new rule would be a major obstacle for law enforcement.

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