National Police Agency Commissioner Kang Hee-rak marked his first year in office March 9. He would have deserved at least a small celebration had he spent the past year in a meaningful way in commanding the 100,000-strong police force amid a series of incidents and accidents. His impression of passing the first half of his tenure is not insignificant. From the perspective of the people who are the clients of police, one might wonder how his policy of forming the "peoples police" has been realized.
Whatever plan he might have had for his first anniversary went down the drain because of the rape and murder of a middle school girl in Busan. Police had been on alert since her body was discovered after she went missing late last month. The prime suspected was caught four days later, but police are facing heavy public criticism for a lax investigation.
Therefore, the police chief was forced to self-reflect Monday instead of celebrating the first anniversary of his term. He convened a meeting of the chiefs of all provincial police agencies and said police had no excuse for the problems in the handling of the Busan murder.
Expressing regret over the police failure to prevent her murder, Kang encouraged the regional police chiefs, asking them not to try to become the subject of public criticism if getting the public trust and respect was too much. He also urged police to conduct thorough investigations, saying officers tend to do only what they are ordered to do. After being reprimanded by the chief, police scurried yesterday to announce measures to strengthen monitoring of convicted juvenile sex offenders.
Senior police officers are among those whom Kang described as those who do only what they are told. Police did not begin a major operation to apprehend the suspect until President Lee Myung-bak gave an order, just as they did in the case of a failed child kidnapping attempt in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, last year. At the time, police arrested a suspect just a day after the president visited a police station in Gyeonggi`s Ilsan district to criticize it for not being quick enough to catch the suspect. This time, it took two days for police to apprehend the suspect after a presidential order.
All police should show with actions and results that Kang`s self-reflection was not aimed at evading public criticism. The people want a police trusted by the public and feared by criminals.
Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (email@example.com)