Military police officials lament passing of an era

By Lo Tien-bin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 - Page 3

Following the Ministry of National Defense’s decision to reduce the ranks of the military and introduce an all-volunteer military system, the military police (MPs) are also being downsized, with some branch offices in counties and cities being considered for other uses, leading some senior military police officers to lament the passing of an era.

According to a senior MP, the military police serve as both judicial and military police, and their duties include guarding state VIPs, gathering intelligence, investigating criminal cases, maintaining social order and anti-terrorism duties, adding that their multiple roles were legally provisioned under Articles 229-231 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), Articles 2-4 of the Act on Mobilizing Judicial Police (調度司法警察條例) and Articles 58-60 of the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法).

Being a member of the military police was something truly to be proud of, the official said.

When criminal gangs and the mafia were still rampant in Taiwan and the government was trying to quell gang-related activity, the military police were among the three organizations in cities and counties that could attend meetings to decide whether to take action, the official said.

As an example of how the military police had been a force to reckon with during the nation’s social development, the official pointed to an incident in 1996 when prosecutor Liu Cheng-wu (劉承武) requested the help of the military police in making a thorough search of Huaxi Street, then a well-known red-light district in Taipei.

The prosecutors’ office had conducted many raids with the aid of police but to no avail, the official said, adding that the enlistment of the military police in the case gave the MPs’ image a great boost.

In its heyday, the force had headquarters or offices in every county and city, and in some locations where there were large numbers of soldiers there were also additional MP precincts, the official said.

Citing Taoyuan County as an example, the official said that it had an official MP headquarters in the former Taoyuan City, as well as a precinct in Jhongli City (中壢).

Taipei has not only the Armed Forces Police Command (AFPC), but also four more precincts, giving it a total of five offices in one city alone, the official said.

However, the official said that times are changing and the restructuring of the armed forces over the past decade has meant drastic changes to the military police, with the Military Police Investigation Division being abolished along with the Anti-Hoodlum Act (檢肅流氓條例), and many offices being closed or downsized due to personnel cuts.

At its peak, the nation had once boasted a military force of 400,000, but the ministry’s five-year restructuring plan aims to reduce that number to 215,000, with the number of ranking generals to be reduced from 393 to 292.

The Anti-Hoodlum Act, enacted in 1985 to provide social-order stability and prevent gangs and mafia members from harassing the public, was abolished due to its multiple constitutional violations.

In the past, the military police had an equal standing to local police chiefs and county officials, but now MPs seem to be lacking status, the official said.

When former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office in 2000, there were 29 MP commands nationwide, but 13 years later, there are only 21, the official said, adding that after the ministry’s restructuring plan, it is possible only 18 MP commands will remain in the nation.

Some MP commands may be merged, the official said, adding that the resulting empty offices and barracks could be sought by other units.

The barracks of the East Area Military Police Precinct office, beside the Taipei Municipal Dun-Hua Junior High School and near the Huan Ya business area, are now used by Taipei Police Department’s Songshan precinct, the official said.

The official also said that the Hualien County Government wants to use the Hualien Military Police Precinct — a century-old building on Hualien City’s Sanmin Street — after the MP precinct was relocated two years ago.

Meanwhile, the official said that despite the downsizing, there were some branches of the military police that would retain their importance, pointing to the AFPC, located behind the Presidential Office, as an example.

As the AFPC shares offices with the MP 202 Command Headquarters — the branch of the military police tasked with the defense of the Bo-ai Special District (博愛特區) and thus the nearest military force capable of combat duty to the Presidential Office — it would not experience any decrease in importance, the official said.

The Bo-ai Special District is a military restricted area and a designated no-fly zone that houses most of the central government’s office buildings, with the exception of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, which relocated outside of the district in 2006.