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Police take action against investigative rights bill

June 26, 2011 - 20:28 By 천성우
Police officers have taken collective action against a revised bill on the investigative rights of the police and the prosecution, signaling a bumpy road ahead for the compromise reached a week ago.

Top government officials including Presidential Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee, Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam and National Police Agency chief Cho Hyun-oh agreed on a compromise draft last Monday to let the prosecution maintain its command over the police, but allows the police to launch its own independent investigations.

A special parliamentary committee passed the revision bill later Monday, largely upholding the Cabinet’s earlier decision.

Only a clause of Article 192-1 was revised from “a judicial police officer must conduct investigations under the command of a prosecutor” to “a judicial police officer is under the command of a prosecutor in all investigations.”

If the legislation and judiciary committee pass the bill this week, it will move to the general meeting of the National Assembly.

A great number of police officers have complaints against the agreement, saying it won’t make any difference and runs counter to the object of prosecution reform.

Two officers of the National Police Agency team that led the working-level negotiations for the revision requested transfer to other departments, while a senior police officer is staging a one-man protest calling Monday’s agreement “invalid.”

An NPA superintendent said on condition of anonymity that the agreement contradicted the purpose of prosecution reform and could even strengthen a prosecutor’s authority in investigations.

Currently, some 98 percent of all cases are investigated by the police and only 2 percent are handled by the prosecution.

Police officers posted hundreds of complaints on the NPA internal message board after news of the agreement last Monday.

On Friday, some 80 police officers from across the country, students of the Korean National Police University and professors gathered for an all-night marathon debate on the “compromise draft” for eight hours till dawn in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong Province.

Such organized actions by the police against a government draft is the first in six years since the last time the government revised their investigative rights in 2005. Working-level police officers are taking action this time, instead of high-ranking police officials.

Participants in the debate pointed out that it was inappropriate of NPA chief Cho Hyun-oh to agree with justice minister without collecting the views of other agencies with investigative rights such as the National Maritime Police, the National Intelligence Service and special judiciary police agencies under government ministries.

The debate room was plastered with banners reading “Prosecution holds the authority while police only holds responsibility” and “I am a detective in Korea. I have no investigative rights.”

By Kim So-hyun (