Posted October. 16, 2008 04:54,
Police officers late last month reportedly beat a disabled suspect and offered a large sum to settle the case out of court, with top police leaders allegedly deeply involved in an attempted cover-up.
The results of a Dong-A Ilbo investigative report found that police went to great lengths to cover up the incident.
Police in the Gwanak district of Seoul confirmed yesterday that four officers implicated in the case were put on administrative leave pending an assault and battery investigation.
The officers reportedly beat a theft suspect Seo Sept. 28 after he refused to identify himself. The 43-year-old man agreed to settle the case Tuesday for 80 million won (64,360 U.S. dollars).
An anonymous police source close to the case said, We didnt know Seo was disabled. Seos theft victim who stood next to him said Seo was just pretending. I guess that angered the officers, who ended up committing assault and battery.
Four officers are known to have beaten Seo. Three to four other officers were in the police station at the time, but did not stop the beating.
A Gwanak police officer said, Weve been busy with the parliamentary audit of the government. In addition, [National Police Agency] Commissioner General Eo [Cheong-soo] has stressed quality public service.
Suddenly this case popped up and our higher-ups didnt want to stir public attention. Thats why we wanted to resolve it as soon as possible.
At first, the accused officers tried to cover up the case by not reporting it to their higher-ups. Seos family, however, visited internal affairs at the station Thursday when higher-ranking officers were made aware of it.
When The Dong-A Ilbo began looking into the allegation Tuesday, major commanders were trying to sweep things under the rug. Detectives as well as the station chief denied the beating took place, even saying the booking of a disabled theft suspect never happened.
When The Dong-A Ilbo discovered information such as the victims name, certain high-ranking officers confessed to the beating, saying, Theyre our men. We had to side with them.
Police investigator Jang Seong-won said, Seo did not answer our repeated phone calls. Thats why we didnt start looking into it earlier. According to Dong-As investigation, however, the victims mother answered phone calls until late afternoon, but suddenly disconnected her phone yesterday evening.
The Gwanak station yesterday questioned the officers and obtained statements from them. They handed over surveillance tapes to prosecutors.
The accused officers face both disciplinary action and criminal penalties.