October 06, 2018 08:31
Police officers have increasing difficulties dealing with the severely inebriated in Korea, where people of both sexes passed out cold on the subway are a nightly sight.
"There is widespread fear among police officers that if we ever have to touch the body of drunk women, there is a chance that we could get sued for sexual harassment," one officer complained.
In August, a profoundly drunk woman was sitting on the sidewalk in Gangnam, Seoul in the small hours. A police lieutenant who was called to the scene held her hair and tried to wake her up by shaking her head as she seemed to have lost control of her limbs.
A passerby filmed the incident and uploaded it on social media, creating instant outrage at the policeman's "excessive" reaction. "The woman didn't do anything that might threaten the officer, but he held her by the hair," one commenter wrote. "Such behavior makes all the other hardworking police officers look bad," said another.
The officer explained to his superior that he had only been propping up her head so that it wouldn't hit the ground until a taxi arrived, and that point was to minimize physical contact with the woman. Still, disciplinary action was taken against him for handling the situation inappropriately.
Other incidents that made waves when they were captured on video include a drunk woman in her 30s harassing a 25-year-old police officer in the Hongik University area in Seoul in July 2016.
"Do you want to go out with me?" she baited the officer. "Kiss me." When the officer ignored her, she slapped his face four or five times.
"There are many occasions when male police officers may feel sexually humiliated, but because the focus is on protecting drunk women, many officers just put up with it and move on," one policeman said.
It seems that men and women become more alike when they are drunk and both sexes can turn violent. One police officer wrote on the petition boards of Cheong Wa Dae recently. "In my three years of experience, I was hit by drunk people more than 20 times."
How to deal with drunkenness is subject of heated debate amongst officers. "You want to be chivalrous and protect drunk people until the end, but if something goes wrong in the process, all the onus is on the police officer," one said. "The best thing is to wake them up and send them home, but if that doesn't work, the best course of action would be seeking help from 119."
Another said, "When you are called to the scene, there's a lot of confusion about where the responsibility of a police officer ends. It's stressful. We get complaints anyway, whether we think the person is sober enough to look after him or herself and leave, or we transfer the case to 119."
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