Low-ranking police officers and their families will hold a demonstration on Police Day today to protest against poor working conditions and long hours.
“I feel saddened to be here with the families of police officers,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) told a press conference at the legislature in Taipei. “Police are supposed to protect lives and property, but their own lives are at the stake because of overwork.”
“I call on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) and the National Police Agency [NPA] to look at this issue more seriously, come up with a more reasonable shift system and division of labor to protect the rights and lives of police officers,” he said.
Liu said a severe shortage of officers in some rural areas means some have to work as many as 18 hours a day.
Last year, an officer in Yunlin County surnamed Liu (劉) had a stroke after working three days of overtime.
“Liu’s wife, surnamed Chiang (江), wrote to Ma, calling his attention to the issue of overwork in the force. However, Ma has yet to respond,” Liu Chien-kuo said.
Chiang, who attended the press conference, said her husband worked in Taipei for more than 14 years.
“When he was in Taipei, he worked 14 hours a day and his office paid for an annual health check,” she said.
“However, after he was transferred to Yunlin, he had to constantly work overtime, was given far too many duties, and also was not given a health check because of a budget shortage,” Chiang said. “After three days of work, he suddenly had a stroke, fell on the on-duty desk and became seriously physically challenged.”
Another woman married to an officer, who identified herself as Mrs Yang (楊), said there was a saying among officers that they would “rather die at the hands of the mafia than from overwork.”
“Being a police officer is a highly [labor] intensive job. It’s not a 7-Eleven, they should not be on call 24 hours a day, and have several assignments to do at once,” Yang said.
As one of the organizers of the demonstration, Yang said she received complaints from several officers who wanted to join the rally, but whose superiors either expressed “concern” about the protest or refused to approve their request for a day off.
NPA Deputy Director-General Ho Hai-min (何海民) said there was a serious shortage of officers and promised to launch a new program to recruit 14,000 officers within five years.
However, he denied that any supervising officers would try to stop anyone from joining the demonstration.
“Shifts are usually arranged weeks beforehand,” Ho said. “If any of our colleagues have any problems, the door for communication is always open. Please do not hesitate to e-mail or speak directly with your supervisor.”