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Prove your competence

June 14,2019
Amid a deepening war of nerves over the rearrangement of investigative rights between the police and the prosecution, the police cannot avoid criticism for their subpar abilities to investigate and collect evidence at crime scenes, not to mention a critical lack of discipline. How can they demand independent investigative rights under such circumstances?

The disappointing quality of police investigations was confirmed three years ago when suspicions arose over singer Jung Joon-young’s posting of sex videos on a mobile chat room without consent of female partners. In August 2016, a female victim filed a criminal complaint with a police station in Seoul, but a policeman handling the case did not ask Jung to submit his smartphone. Instead, he advised Jung’s lawyer to tell the prosecution that his client had lost his smartphone. If the police had confiscated his smartphone at the time, it could have prevented the same fate from happening to more than 10 victims over the last three years.

In April in Jinju, South Gyeongsang, local police bungled a horrendous case involving arson and murder. Ahn In-deuk, a criminal with mental illnesses, killed five neighbors and injured 18. His neighbors repeatedly informed the police that he was a menace, but they did nothing. Even after receiving a request for protection from one of the neighbors, the police sent her home empty-handed.

The same goes for the case of Koh Yu-jeong, who admitted killing her ex-husband on Jeju Island last month and dismembering his corpse to destroy the evidence. The police have yet to find the exact motive. Relatives of the victim lament the police’s lax approach. If the police had reacted properly in the initial stage, they could have made headway.

The police’s track record certainly raises serious doubts about their ability to investigate on their own. If the law enforcement agency is given the right to start and conclude investigations on their own, would the public accept it? Netizens are increasingly raising questions about the police’s demand for independent investigations without the prosecution’s involvement. Can the police really answer how competent they will be?

If the police cannot prove their competence, they cannot expect to have greater powers in investigations. No matter how desirable it is to check the prosecution’s admittedly over-sized power, we cannot but hope for the delay of a planned rearrangement of investigative rights between the two law enforcement agencies.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 30