OPINION

[Editorial] Police on Facebook

By 백희연

Apologize for posting alleged rape victim’s records

  • Published : Apr 6, 2016 - 17:36
  • Updated : Apr 7, 2016 - 15:21
An alleged sexual assault on an Australian woman, Airdre Mattner, in September 2015 has received wide attention thanks to an article in The Korea Herald last week and follow-up by other news outlets.

The Seoul police station in charge of the case has said that it has yet to find sufficient evidence to arrest any suspect. While Mattner said that she was drugged, abducted and raped, it seems that investigators have faced hurdles though they said they had collected an unidentified DNA sample from her body.

The police said they had referred the DNA sample to the state forensics agency. They also said that investigators are looking into CCTV footage around a hotel in Itaewon in Yongsan-gu.

It has been about six months since the victim notified police of the incident. Considering that investigators secured a reported DNA sample and surveillance camera footage, they have not been short of time to carry out an investigation into a violent crime.

Before contacting the media, Mattner expressed her discontent with the way she was treated by investigators on a fund-raising website she is using to raise money to pay for legal action. She might have thought that the Korean police were lax in dealing with the case. That might be the key reason why she chose alternative ways to seek justice and spoke to the media.

After her story was publicized in a series of local news reports, the Yongsan-based police station has refuted her claim. It said that its internal review has found that “no insulting questions” were asked during the probe.

It is not easy to determine whose claim is closer to the truth regarding the procedures followed by the police. There is a possibility that there might have been miscommunication due to the language barrier.

But the police station chose the wrong approach to deny her claims. It defended itself on Facebook in the form of an open letter -- in English and Korean – directed at the victim without her consent. The method was completely irregular and brings international shame on the nation’s police. It is hard to understand how the law enforcement authorities could post private information about a victim, including details of the investigation.

Even if her story was already known to the public -- through a fund-raising website and media interviews -- the police should have not followed suit. Further, the police used social media not for investigation purposes but to defend their reputation.

Apart from its inability to arrest the criminal, the police station has to sincerely apologize to her for its actions as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the National Police Agency would damage its reputation further, both at home and abroad.

It must ask for her pardon and delete the preposterous post on Facebook.