Taipei mayor Ko faces rare criticism over police comments

Taipei mayor Ko faces rare criticism over police comments
Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) received rare widespread criticism yesterday first for questioning the efforts of police officers in charge of the Ximending E-mei parking garage shootings case and later for proposing to ease restrictions on wiretapping by the police.

Police raided the high-rise studio apartment hideout of prime suspect Chen Fu-hsiang (陳福祥) in the early hours of Saturday, and successfully captured the suspect.

The criticism came from police and the general public after the Taipei mayor initially suggested that Chen should have been captured earlier.

Ko went to the Wanhua precinct yesterday to award the parking garage shooting task force with NT$600,000 (S$25, 800) for their accomplishments. At the event, he admitted the difficulty of the mission and the time-consuming paperwork they went through in obtaining the telephone logs of the parties involved and in applying for wiretapping permits. Ko suggested that such processes should be streamlined.

The mayor made his first comments on the case after Taipei City Police Commissioner Chiu Feng-kuang (邱豐光) contacted him right after the arrest to deliver the news. However, Chiu's effort was met with a cold response as Ko asked the commissioner why it took the police such a long time to arrest a suspect whom the police had targeted with such certainty.

During a press event on Saturday, Ko also said that although the suspect has been apprehended, the police still have a lot of room for improvement and reflection, as the mission was completed too sluggishly.

The mayor's statement triggered complaints from police and civilian supporters. A high ranking police officer from the Taipei City Police Department reportedly said that Ko's harsh statement and expectations were due to the fact that the mayor knows nothing about police procedures, and his comments only managed to have a negative effect on police morale.

Several civilians also took to the Internet to tell Ko to give his police staff more encouragement and less criticism.

The mayor took to his Facebook page, writing that police officers have put in a lot of effort in recent years to maintain a 100-per cent major crimes closing rate in Taipei City. The officers, Ko wrote, deserve applause from every single Taipei citizen.

However, the mayor's change of tone on Facebook was not met with open arms by netizens, who instead implored the mayor to provide the officers with public praise rather than something that is simply written.

Mayor Elaborates on Surveillance Statement

In his appearance at the Wanhua Precinct yesterday, the mayor openly suggested that the police ought to adopt a "shoot first, ask questions later" attitude toward conducting audio surveillance. He proposed that instead of applying for permission, police could simply register their eavesdropping missions so that "they can act faster."

The mayor's statement drew criticisms including that from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), who said that Ko's idea is in violation of human rights.

The mayor later elaborated on his idea following Tuan's criticism, stating that his idea pertains to cases in which the suspects are obvious.

Ko said that what he meant is that in surveillance cases at a political level, inspectors should go through the proper channels of application to be approved. However, in civil cases such as the E-Mei shooting, it is unreasonable to ask the police to wait for two processing days when it is clear who the culprit is.

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