Police are making a last-ditch effort to ensure that they will be on equal footing with prosecutors as the government moves to finalize the revised laws that would reorganize the jurisdictions of police and prosecutors in criminal investigation procedures.
As part of President Moon Jae-in’s drive to reform the prosecution, which has a monopoly on indictment powers and investigation oversight, the National Assembly passed revision bills to the Criminal Procedure Act and the Prosecutors’ Office Act in January.
As the legislative notice period for enforcement ordinances ended Sept. 16, the remaining procedures for the bills to take effect are nods from a vice ministerial meeting set for Thursday and a Cabinet meeting as well as the president’s approval.
The gist of the revisions is to put police in charge of investigations while having the prosecution focus on indictment. Currently, prosecutors can supervise police investigations or launch investigations on their own, while they hold the exclusive authority to indict criminal suspects.
Some police representatives, including the civil service workers’ union at the National Police Agency and the Korean Police Studies Association, called for changes to certain details of the bills, saying the prosecution’s investigation rights may not be restricted as expected.
Under the new law, prosecutors would be allowed to launch direct investigations into crimes falling under only six categories: corruption, economy, public officials, elections, defense projects and large-scale disasters. But there are exception clauses that would make it possible to broaden the scope of their authority.
Police argue that prosecutors could open cases on illegal drugs as they could be classified as economy-related crimes. Cybercrimes involving major information and communication infrastructure could be considered major disasters. Also, prosecutors could open cases regardless of what kind of crime is alleged if they obtained search and seizure warrants from the court.
“There is a concern that (prosecutors) could overly seek warrants. The rules also counter the purpose of the amendment to reduce prosecutors’ direct investigative power,” the groups said in a press conference Monday.
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s remarks on Monday that the investigative rules between prosecutors and police fall within the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry drew criticism from police.
They asserted that the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, which has jurisdiction over the National Police Agency, should jointly oversee the implementation of the new rules along with the Justice Ministry.
Although police would be able to close probes without the prosecution’s approval under the new law, prosecutors would keep police officers under their control as the enforcement ordinance would allow them to review whether a police decision to close a case was justified, the groups said.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org