As many as 1,800 of the nation’s 68,000 police officers, or 2.6 percent, are having money deducted from their salaries every month to repay personal debts, National Police Agency data show.
The figure does not include debt-ridden policemen who are repaying debts by other means, the agency said.
Because an individual’s personal finances are a private matter, the agency said it normally does not ask individual police officers about their debts and usually refrains from immediately putting them on a list of policemen who must get special training or counseling.
Debt-laden police officers are listed as requiring assistance or monitoring only when they are required by courts to repay debts through mandatory salary deductions or show an inclination to violate their professional code of ethics, the agency said.
Some analysts said policemen with financial problems could pose a potential threat to public safety because the officers may be made more vulnerable to criminal temptations by their financial stress.
The Greater Tainan Government’s Police Bureau conducted a survey on the lives of its staff after the merger of then-Tainan city and Tainan county. The survey found that nearly 200 policemen had incurred debts by mismanaging their finances.
Lin Chin-yuan, deputy director of the city’s police bureau, said this inspired him take the initiative to coordinate with private debt companies to consolidate the policemen’s debts and help them work out repayment plans.
Since April 2011, one-third of the bureau’s policemen in the program have seen their debt burden reduced or eliminated. Lin said that instead of helping the officers find new sources for loans, he helped them find solutions to their fiscal issues.
“The most important thing is that they have to change themselves. Only then can they have a future,” Lin said.
Lin said he has received letters from many policemen expressing their gratitude for his assistance.
“You have saved me and my family,” one policeman wrote.
Another told Lin that he could finally get married now that he was debt-free.
Lin said that he has visited each of the city’s 153 precincts and found that debt is the most serious issue affecting staff members’ lives and work.
At least 170 of the bureau’s 4,000-plus staff members have been troubled by debt, with one owing NT$6 million (US$206,500).
Because officers are responsible for maintaining public order, Lin said he felt compelled to help indebted policemen tackle their debt problems for fear that they may be more likely to give in to criminal temptations if under financial duress. In the past two years, two debt-laden Greater Tainan police officers were prosecuted for leaking classified information.
Lin said the police bureau only helped resolve debts to banks.
“The debt consolidation program does not include debts to loan sharks,” he said.
Lin Chih-hsi, the supervisory division chief of the Tainan Police Bureau, said gambling, investment flops and serving as guarantors for relatives or friends’ bank loans are the three most common ways that policemen incur debt.
Other officers have become indebted as a result of their parents’ financial problems, he added.