Following Thursday’s demonstration by firefighters protesting overwork, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) yesterday acknowledged that a shortage of manpower in the firefighting and police forces was an issue that needed immediate attention, and promised to draw up plans to address it.
“We are short of firefighters and police officers, because the numbers are limited by the Executive Yuan’s Directorate-General of Personnel Administration due to lack of funds,” Lee told a question-and-answer session during an Internal Administration Committee meeting at the legislature. “But I agree that we need to fix the issue now.”
Lee said that, as of February, as many as 92,000 people were needed in the police force, but the government could only afford 73,000. The actual number of police officers nationwide is 67,000.
As for the firefighters, 17,000 people were needed, but the government could only afford 14,000. The actual number of firefighters nationwide is 13,000, Lee said.
“We will look into how to increase the number of people passing the national exams for police, while thoroughly reviewing the manpower shortage issue,” the minister said.
Lawmakers across party lines expressed concerns about the issue.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) suggested that, since manpower shortage is a serious issue, “firefighters and police officers should refrain from doing unnecessary tasks — such as helping locked-out city councilors open doors.”
Lee was referring to reports last week that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠) called the police for assistance after forgetting to take her keys with her when she went out.
KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) urged the ministry to thoroughly review each city and county’s requirements for police officers and firefighters.
“Readjustments of the firefighting and police forces were never made after administrative upgrades and the enlargements of four special municipalities in 2010,” he said.
Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) urged increases in the number of firefighters in remote Aboriginal areas.
“There are only two firefighters in the entire Jianshih Township (尖石), Hsinchu County,” May Chin said. “That’s completely unacceptable.”