Recent news has not been good for the image of Taiwan’s police.
After a questionable arrest and detainment of a music teacher in Taoyuan made the headlines last week, news broke that officers at Songshan Precinct’s Zhonglun Police Station in Taipei allegedly deleted security footage showing a group of men storming into the station and damaging a computer on April 16.
While the video incident is still being investigated, a group of people on Monday night released hundreds of cockroaches into a restaurant where Taipei’s voluntary police force was hosting a banquet.
The guests included senior officers such as Taipei Police Commissioner Chen Jia-chang (陳嘉昌) and New Taipei City Police Commissioner Huang Tsung-jen (黃宗仁) as well as lawmakers and city councilors.
After an initial investigation, Chen said that the attack stemmed from a financial dispute between the restaurant owner and gangsters, and there was a “low possibility” that the perpetrators were targeting the police — although he added that he could not be 100 percent sure.
However, the men who barged into the Zhonglun Police Station were not particularly targeting police either — they were chasing one of the department’s physical training instructors, Yang Chung-li (楊忠蒞), with whom they had an altercation while drinking. They likely did not know that he worked for the police.
What is alarming is the perpetrators’ audacity and disregard of law enforcement, and the police department’s actions afterward.
The cockroach attack was apparently well-planned, as multiple pet fish stores in Taipei and New Taipei City said they received orders over the weekend for that specific type of cockroach, which is often used for feed.
It is unlikely that the masterminds behind the attack did not know that police, including top brass, were hosting a banquet at the restaurant. Whatever their motives, their action is another blatant display of disrespect toward the authorities.
Some people have accused the police of trying to cover up the restaurant attack — understandably so, given the aftermath of the Zhonglun Police Station incident.
Once the assailants were done rampaging through the station, all police did was to have them apologize and promise to pay for the damage. They were released without charges. Police superiors learned about the incident only after someone from the station wrote about it in an online post.
Even worse, police at the station initially lied about what happened to the security footage, first claiming that it was lost in a power outage, then saying that they deleted it by accident.
Former station director Hsu Shu-heng (許書恒), who has since been removed from his position, on Sunday said he deleted the footage to “protect Yang’s image.” He added that he acted alone, without pressure from his superiors or others.
Is that believable? If this is standard behavior for the nation’s police chiefs, then there needs to be more scrutiny into the larger culture that compels them to act this way.
The public should demand a thorough explanation, otherwise Hsu would just be a scapegoat and nothing would change.
It is an outrage that a music teacher who was merely going to work was arrested and detained for nine hours, while hooligans who invaded a police station and destroyed government property were let off the hook.
The cockroach incident should be easier to handle, but police need to show that people cannot openly attack them — especially as the police force is already under suspicion of a cover-up. Otherwise, how can people trust police to protect them?
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