Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Taipei police see politics in clearance rate order

CAMPAIGN PLOY?Both the NPA and the Taipei City Police Department deny any connection between the order and the January elections

By Yao Yueh-hung, Liu Ching-hou and Huang Tun-yan  /  Staff Reporters

The National Police Agency’s (NPA) orders to achieve a 79 percent clearance rate for major crime cases was an “obvious” move to make the public feel safer ahead of the January legislative and presidential elections, Taipei police investigators said yesterday.

Major crime cases range from theft to murder.

The Taipei City Police Department has said special attention will be paid to the number of cases cleared on a monthly basis, starting last month and running through December, with investigation team captains and precinct chiefs liable to receive a warning demerit or more severe demerits for failing to attain the goal.

The most severe penalty could result in demotion, the captains said on condition of anonymity, adding that the orders would prompt police to play a “numbers game” to keep their positions.

If cases could not be solved quickly, officers could be tempted to understate the number of crimes, the sources said, adding that sitting on cases was one of the quickest ways to lower the number of crimes.

Crossing into jurisdiction of other precincts for easy-to-solve crimes was another trick every cop knows about, the sources said.

For example, when a cellphone is reported to the police as lost, the police give the phone’s owner a three-page form to fill out that acknowledges receipt of the complaint and that the police will take action. The station then keeps two copies of the form and the phone’s owner is given the third. However, now police will ask detailed questions about the circumstances of the loss and if there is no clear evidence showing that the cellphone was stolen, police will only give the owner a two-page form to fill out, which is usually not filed.

The police sources said the average clearing rate in Taipei’s precincts was on the rise, with a 62 percent clearance rate reported for July, a 68 percent rate in August and 77 percent rate last month.

Only the Xinyi Precinct saw a 56 percent clearing rate last month, the sources said.

Captains are unhappy with the “unreasonable” clearance orders, the sources said.

Clearance rates cannot rise instantly unless you sit on cases, the captains said, adding that some captains were even saying they were already preparing to be demoted.

“Some counties and cities are reporting 95 percent clearance rates. Who would believe that?” Greater Tainan Police Department Chief Chen Tzu-jing (陳子敬) said.

Using statistics to manage safety only encourages police to sit on cases, Alliance for Police Reform spokesperson Ma Chai-chin (馬在勤) said.

The National Police Agency did not comment on the punitive measures announced by Taipei, saying it had simply announced its clearance rate objective and did not ask police departments and precincts to take punitive measures if the goal was not met.

It said the 79 percent goal was reached based on statistics from last year, with the total number of cases solved (296,500) divided by the number of cases reported (371,934).

The Taipei City Police Department denied the clearance order had anything to do with the January elections. It said the new clearance rate was a way of giving each precinct responsibility and a goal to achieve.

Monthly evaluations were simply be a way to encourage precincts with low clearance rates to do better and to warn investigators who are not performing well, the department said.

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