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I am not a Superman

On May 15, a petition was posted on the presidential petition board titled 'I am a police officer. Please help us'. The publisher said he was a 20-year-old male police officer working at the police station. He was appealing for the need to strengthen public power, along with his experience of violence by drunken people. The police in the petition was not a hero anymore, punishing the bad people silently, despite the force or oppression. Like this, recently there has been a need of attention not only from the police but also from the firefighters and paramedics. Let's look at what is going on with them and find a way to deal with their problems.


Public Officials in uniform of Korea

‘A public official in uniform’ is a public official whose mission is to keep public order and safety, including firefighters, police officers and coast guard workers. The reason why they wear uniforms is to help the public recognize their uniforms and ask for help with trust.

As the number of people who have the lack of proper citizenship for uniformed officials has increased, it is difficult to enforce the official duty of the uniformed civil servants who should be responsible for the safety nearest to the people. According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, 42,752 people were arrested for obstructing police service in the three years from 2015 to 2017. In addition, 1,462 police officers, 22 coast guard officers and 564 paramedics were also injured while on duty. Last year alone, the total number of police officers and police officers who suffered from violence during the execution was 672, including 406 and 9, respectively, and 167 firefighters. Therefore, nearly 700 government officials in uniform suffer from groundless assault and abuse during their official duties. In last year, the number of police officers who suffered violence during the execution totaled 406, nine marine police officers and 167 firefighters, a total of 672. This means that nearly 700 uniformed officers are suffering from unexplained assault and ranting during public service in a year. Apart from these physical damages, uniformed officials are suffering from the citizens' selfishness. According to the status of patient classification of 119 emergency activities, about one-third of patients who were not in an emergency were out of 1.12 million patients who had to be on an ambulance in Seoul in 2014. Among them, there were 729 people who used an ambulance more than once a month, and 18 people used to use an ambulance more than 100 times a year. Their reasons to call ambulance were chronic diseases, simple toothache, a cold, simple bruises, and difficulty to get home because of heavy drinking.


Why did they become the subject of the "POWER TRIP" of the people?

First, there is the problem of the current law, which has a weak level of punishment. In fact, in most cases of physical violence against public officials in uniform, it is often done by a heavily drunken people. According to the National Police Agency, about 1,800 people were arrested for obstructing the execution of the official affairs from September to October 2017. Among them, 74.4% of violation and the execution of the official affairs were interfered by drunk people. In addition, according to Jeonbuk Fire & Police office, more than 60% of the cases in which the paramedics were assaulted, were found to have been caused by "drinkers". Nevertheless, according to the disposition of the paramedics, 314 cases were punished by a minor punishment, Over half of the 622 people had assaulted the paramedics from 2014 to July 2017. In fact, in August 2016, Mr. Kim was charged with a criminal act that interfered with the fire truck's path, threatened and abused it because of the loud demand of the firefighters' emergency dispatch. However, in February 2017, the judge sentenced Mr. Kim to one year and six months imprisonment and probation of three years because he had been drinking alcohol at the time and was in the process of losing his condition.

Second, there are almost no valid preventive measures. In April 2018, a firefighting officer in Iksan, carried a drunken man to a hospital, and when the man awoke up he gave a sudden assault and rant to the firefighters. As a result, the firefighters were diagnosed with 'nerve damage due to extreme stress', and a few days later, he was transferred to the hospital due to a cerebral hemorrhage, but eventually died. Like this case, the damage from the case is so great that there is no preventive measure to prevent such accidents except the punishment law.

Third, it is often difficult to deal with various incidents due to the ethics of the public officials in uniform. Police and firefighters, in particular, have a principle and a sense of mission to make citizen’s safety and health a top priority. Therefore, most of the punishment is not discussed because the perpetrator is a citizen even in the great slander of obstruction of public administration. Actually, in June 2017, the court sentenced two years of probation to a man charged with allegations of assault and threats of police officers, vandalism such as a police car, and obstruction of public office execution. Because the victim, the police officer, did not want to punish the defendant. In addition, the right of paramedics to refuse to transfer patients is documented in the '119 Structural and Emergency Act', but is rarely implemented in the field. If the caller dials 119, the caller's safety is the top priority, so the ambulance will be dispatched even if the caller's status cannot be checked.

Lastly, the problem is that people do not believe in the governmental authority very much. The public has a low confidence that they will be insufficient in resolving the incident for uniforms such as police officers and firefighters, who are often seen around their lives In fact, in the "Public Power Confidence Survey" conducted by the Real Meter in August 2017, 76% of the respondents answered that they do not trust and do not know them. This reaction is evident when an actual event occurs. As a practical example, there was a case in which a group of suspects assaulted Mr. A with his fists and feet dozens of times on April 30. The injury of the victim was serious, and a video of the incident was spread on various social networking sites. Since then, people who watched the video blamed that the police arrived late and didn’t properly control the perpetrator, so that the perpetrator assaulted the victim several times in front of the police. When the accusations spreaded, the police chief of the Gwangju police chief told the Facebook on May 4, "Police officers dispatched to the Gwangju massacre site beat their arm to defeat the perpetrators and use a taser gun to resist the attack. " It turned out that two police cars (four police officers) arrived in only four minutes after receiving the case report.


Exemplary systems to be accepted

BeSTOW : Beyond Survival Toward Officer Wellness

In the United States, most police officers and firefighters are often severely traumatized by accidents caused by poor gun control. For this reason, a health management system has been developed and applied on the frontline in relation to developing programs for mental health. For example, BeSTOW, a crisis management program based on the FBI's research based on the philosophy of advancing mental health beyond survival. If you choose a team of dedicated and mentally healthy people in a police station or a fire station, they routinely engage in activities such as conversation and counseling with their colleagues. Then, through the discussion, they prepare specific prevention and healing systems such as field response training and post-protection programs to protect their colleagues in the event of a crisis. Furthermore, home, community, and religion must cooperate closely to ensure that uniformed officials are able to provide sustained and effective assistance to physical and emotional care.

Administrative immunity

In addition, in the United States, a system to guarantee the human rights of government officials in uniform is well established. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States may apply for ' active administrative immunity ' for large cases. It is a system that recognizes that his or her colleagues defend him(her) on the police side when the officer is judged to be negligent by the police during the execution of the official duty and the police are in a disciplinary crisis. As of 2016, 76 percent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued "active administrative immunity ". In the case of such 'active administrative immunity,' the police officer in disciplinary crisis must demonstrate his or her rightful conduct in carrying out his or her duties. At this time, the results of the "peer participation committee", in which peers review the appropriateness of his or her on-site measures, is very important. This is a system that firstly considers the human rights of police officers and treats them as a citizen.


Things to complement

First, institutional changes are essential. Since the suspect has the right to receive protection as a "citizen," the human rights of public officials in uniform who implement governmental authority should be guaranteed. The legislation that would lower the level of punishment for drunken people who have been accepted so far should be banned.

In addition, low administrative dispositions such as mailing penalties as a means of sanction have been performed on the accused who committed the offense of obstructing the execution of official affairs, but these penalties should be reinforced with fine imposed by means of punishment through actual trials rather than imposition of penalties. Also, it has prescribed that fire prevention charges are to be sentenced to less than five years in prison or 30 million won in fines. But rules should be placed on the application of fire prevention charges and should be strengthened to a maximum prison term of five years. Recently, the Fire Department made a plan to deal with a false reporter who called 119 to have a record of the transfer to the emergency room but not the emergency room medical records, to impose a penalty of 2 million won or less. However, it is not enough to judge emergency patients and non-emergency patients only by the presence of emergency medical records. Therefore, through constant discussion, the concrete standard for identifying ‘drunken patient’ or ‘drunken assault’ and punishing rules should be established.

There should be a framework of system that recognizes and compensates for obstacles in the exercise of public authority by the uniformed civil servants in charge of the health and safety of the people. While the police compensate the damage when the property is damaged during the execution of the public service, it is legal. However when the police officer is injured due to the inevitable use of force, it is difficult for the individual to deal with the damage. It is necessary to revise the system so that compensation for damages is legally possible not only in the property but also in the case of physical harm.

In addition, reinforcement of training in the field is necessary. It is needed to set up response manuals in stages in order to eliminate the damage caused by assault by patients. If the safety of the paramedics is perceived to be at risk in response, the police should be able to request simultaneous action. The government should strengthen the management of the 119 report sharing system, which includes records of habitual reporting or assault from drunk people. The records should be shared closely with the fire department as well as the police station. Depending on the circumstances of the assault, responses should be developed by type and used in actual training.

What if we create a Korean-style BeSTOW system? As a result of the survey on the human rights situation of the fire officers in 2015, the incidence of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) in public officials was 10 times higher than that of the general public. According to the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in 2016, firefighters were selected as "high risk" occupations with post-traumatic stress disorder along with police officers. 4 out of 10 people are suffering from depression, sleeping disorder, etc., and the welfare system of uniformed officials is insufficient. Continuous post-stress management systems in homes, communities, and institutions should be improved for uniformed public servants who suffer from mental problems due to actual assault and ranting. For example, as in the case of the US BeSTOW system, paramedics who have experienced actual violence should provide psychological stability through activities such as workshops. In addition, community counseling agencies and hospital facilities should be linked to provide continuous psychotherapy. Even in families of uniformed civil servants, efforts should be made to provide psychological stability and empathize with them, rather than treating it as an individual problems.

In Korea, if the public interest and feasibility are recognized in the on-site measures, there is a system of 'active administrative immunity' that excludes the police officers or reduces the disciplinary punishment. However, there are few cases where it is actually practiced properly, and if the administrative orders such as punctuality or honesty are lost, most of them are accepted by the uniformed civil servants of Korea. Therefore, it is necessary to reorganize the police so that it can be utilized well.

Above all, it is important to improve our perceptions. We have to change the perception that uniformed officials are disrespectful, and that we can sacrifice them unconditionally for our safety. We must always be aware that '119 is free' is wrong and 119 center is being operated by the people's tax for people who are in urgent situation. In June 2018, the Ministry of Public Security and Security, the National Police Agency and the Maritime Police Agency officially announced that they would appeal the difficulties of the uniformed civil servants through the "People's Discourse" and create a social atmosphere with high citizenship consciousness. The government will support this statement, and strengthen the punishment of obstructing the execution of the civil service of the uniformed civil servants, and will also prepare measures for citizenship.


Officials in uniforms are not supermen, they are just other 'citizen' who work for the safety and life of the public. If they are safe, they can guarantee the safety of many lives in the future. I hope that strengthening public power will be achieved by the high trust of the people with higher civil consciousness and institutional supplement. I also hope that our society will come to appreciate and give respects to those who are uniformed.

신지원  sjw46121@naver.com

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