Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chongqing Police: Before and After Wang Lijun's Downfall (1)

For the first time since the downfall of Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun in February-March this year, a high-rank Chongqing police official comments on changes in Chongqing's police force, in an interview with the Chinese paper Southern Weekend.  The Chinese reporter asked very good questions, and the official gave almost straightforward answers. The interview is quite long and I'll post my translation in two parts.

I have asked questions in this space before on what would happen to Chongqing's police platforms and "mounted" policewomen.  You'll find answers in this interview (and also the accurate cost figures).  Note the fact that it was under Wang Lijun that Chongqing's traffic and patrol police forces were consolidated; apparently this structure will be kept. – Xujun

Feb. 7, 2011 ceremony of Chongqing's Traffic & Patrol Police

[in translation]

Southern Weekend (SW): Since March, we keep hearing that Chongqing's public safety is relapsing. What is the actual situation now?

Chongqing Police Bureau Official: Since March 15, some netizens have been concerned about a relapse in Chongqing's public safety. To address this we carried out a series of actions to ensure that "crackdown intensity is not weakened, precautionary measures are not decreased, public security does not deteriorate, the public's sense of safety is not reduced." Currently, social order in Chongqing is generally steady.

On one hand, we have stepped up precautionary measures, the total number of criminal cases from January to November 2012 fell by 8.4% compared to the same period last year. Among them, the eight major categories including murder, robbery, injury, rape, arson, bombings, hijacking and kidnapping cases decreased by 27.9%. On the other hand, we have also increased the strength of our crackdown, with the number of cases prosecuted increasing by 7.7%.

SW: Over the past three years, Chongqing published lots of data to prove the [criminal] case reduction and the public's sense of safety. Now you are releasing data that say major criminal cases are fewer than then, how can the public believe this is true?

Chongqing Police Official:  The police bureau's data on the eight major categories of criminal activity are relatively accurate, but the data on other ordinary criminal cases are less reliable. The increase in the number of prosecuted cases is also proof that police strength and their ability to solve cases are improving.

In the past, guided by an erroneous view of political performance, in order to achieve short-term personal objectives, the Chongqing Police Bureau exaggerated some public safety data and embellished propaganda: 

First, without any factual basis, some made-up data were issued. For example, saying that the "smash black, banish evil" campaign reduced  110 [emergency number equivalent to 911 in the US] calls in the major urban areas of Chongqing by 40%, or that 80% of the people used real names when reporting crimes, or that street crime rate dropped 40% after the establishment of the Traffic & Patrol, etc.  But in fact, after the establishment of the Traffic & Patrol in 2010, street crime fell by only 2.96% compared to 2009.  

Second, in some cases, data for one point or one time were amplified. For example, saying "Since the establishment of the Traffic & Patrol, Chongqing for the first time in 21 years, had zero incidence of street robbery during one day." 

Third, non-professional polling data were touted. In December 2010, a Chongqing media outlet published opinion polls on public safety satisfaction. The rate of satisfaction was as high as 98.81%.  This non-professional, flamboyant data was used in propaganda as a measure of achievements.

SW: Why was it done that way then?

Chongqing Police Official:  If the data reported by various departments did not satisfy Wang Lijun's requirements, [those involved] might be punished, so some departments reported false data. If our statistics department sent in actual data, they would be in trouble, too. If the reported street crime rate did not decline, or even declined less than Wang Lijun expected, Wang would keep giving statisticians tight shoes to wear. In this situation some departments were forced to cater to Wang Lijun with falsified data.

SW: I've also heard this: Some people feel that, in the past, Wang Lijun governed the police very strictly, and the police were very warm and responsible to citizens, but now some police are no longer as interested in helping people as before.

Chongqing Police Official: Chongqing has a police force of nearly forty thousand, certainly there are problems that exist.  Some individual officers treat public needs coldly or push them away.  But even under Wang Lijun, there were also cases such as police losing their guns, letting suspects slip away because of delays, drunk driving, and  dereliction of duty. But he suppressed such negative information, and expanded the positive messages. The Bureau's new Party committee has attached great importance to complaints involving police. Any complaints through 110 calls and internet channels about police dereliction of duty, will be carefully investigated and handled justly by relevant departments.

SW:   You say public safety has not deteriorated compared to the past, then why is it that people feel differently from what you say?

Chongqing Police Official:  In the past, Chongqing's public security was good, but not as good as the propaganda said. The propaganda magnified it. For example, the portion of burglary cases was the highest among all criminal cases, this was true before Wang Lijun became the police chief, and when he was the police chief, and is still true now with He Ting as the chief. Criminal cases have their own patterns. However, in the past if anyone dared to say on the internet that Chongqing's public security was not good, they would be punished. Now, there are no such worries, and people can say anything they want about the quality of public security.

On the internet some people expressed dissatisfaction with individual cases that have occurred recently in Chongqing, such as smashing car windows and theft.  After we solved these cases, we found that the majority of perpetrators were minors, for whom we couldn't give criminal penalties. After we arrested them, we still had to release them. This is a problem that causes headaches for police across the country. The end of the year is also generally a high occurrence time for criminal cases and accidents; recently we have been taking targeted measurements to deal with pickpocketing, burglary, robbery, etc. based on public reporting.

Public order cannot be improved by one or two crackdowns, or by extreme pressure from police every day. Public order is a societal issue. For example, why would one want to be a pocket-picker?  Police have important responsibilities to solve cases, but crime is a comprehensive reflection of various social conflicts, and prevention of crime must rely on comprehensive governance and management. This is the fundamental way to solve crime.

SW: I saw that some police platforms have disappeared. I also heard that the platforms will be gradually withdrawn. What is your plan really?

Chongqing Police Official: Police platforms will be kept, but they must be mobile. Currently, we have equipped some large police vehicles as moving platforms. The fixed platforms will be gradually optimized.  In some key areas fixed platforms will remain, and others will be changed to regular posts.

SW: Many Chongqing residents think that after the police platforms were set up, public safety was improved. Why do you have to withdraw?   Is it because they are not financially sustainable?

Chongqing Police Official:  The consolidation of traffic and patrol police is a very good idea, but it is worth discussing whether fixed platforms are needed. First, the current platforms lack mobility. The dictate of public security work is that, because crimes are not in a fixed place, the police force must follow the cases. Police should go where criminals are. A lot of crimes occur distant from the platforms. If you let the masses go to the platforms to report, what does 110 do?  The Traffic and Patrol Police are like the hospital registration room and the emergency room,  they are responsible for registration and emergency first aid, but can't treat serious illness. Those cases must be assigned to specialists. Our own requirement is that as soon as the public calls, we go to the crime scene

Second, the police platforms take up a lot of manpower. Each platform requires 20-30 officers, and Chongqing has 500 platforms that use nearly 14,000 police.  This is more than 1/3 of the total manpower. Most officers at police stations and community offices were transferred to the platforms. Chongqing originally had 803 police stations, and 2904 task rooms, but because manpower was deployed to the platforms, 220 stations were merged and 926 task rooms were unable to operate normally. The Ministry of Public Security requires that, police stations should account for 40% of the total force. But early this year, Chongqing’s had only 24%, no one to do the work at the stations. For example, transient population, released inmates, drug abusers and those with mental illness were poorly managed. The early warning information on crimes could not be collected. Since March of this year, we have restored 104 police stations and more than 900 task rooms.

To place a lot of the police force on the streets can only treat security problems superficially. People see so many police on the streets and feel safe, happy, that is understandable. But a big number of police does not equal good public order.  In the Liberation Monument area, with the presence of Traffic and Patrol Police, there are still lots of pickpockets. Thus after setting up police platforms, we still had to organize a team of several hundred to specifically deal with pickpockets.

Third, the fixed platforms are too wasteful. One platform costs 300,000 yuan for fixed equipment, and 800,000 annually for operational expenses. Chongqing has 500 platforms, and a year costs a total of 4 billion. The long-term effect is to waste a big amount of fiscal funds.  If they are changed to mobile platforms, to buy a Iveco truck needs only 200,000, and all the equipment can be moved into the vehicle. The monthly cost for each vehicle is 60-70,000 less than a fixed platform. Do the math, how much money can be saved?

In addition, a fixed platform operates in the open air, it's hot in the summer and cold in the winter for both the public and the police. That's not very humane. Mobile platforms have heating in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer. (To be continued)


Anonymous said...

Great post and translation as usual. I am learning Chinese and I got a very useful idiom from your translation, "wear tight shoes" to mean make someone uncomfortable, right?

I went to the source interview and plucked the idiom right on out, it seems it would be useful. 王就会不断地给统计的人穿小鞋

fairly advanced Chinese sentence structure still bedevils me, but this is useful. Thanks!

Xujun Eberlein said...

Glad to hear, and thanks for reading. I prefer direct translation exactly because many Chinese idioms have nice flavors that would be lost in idiomatic translation.