Transporting Suspect in Police Vehicle without Seatbelt Is Violation of Human Rights, NHRCK Finds
- NHRCK requests that Chief of Korean National Police Agency revise rules relating to suspect transportation -
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea issued a decision that failing to seat belt a suspect in a police vehicle when taking them to the court is a violation of the suspect’s rights to life and safety, guaranteed under the Constitution. In its decision, the Commission requests the Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency revise rules relating to suspect transportation to ensure the safety of the suspect placed in a police vehicle.
The complainant, who was arrested at the scene on charges of fraud, was not provided with a seat belt when he was taken to a court in a police vehicle for an investigation on the validity of a warrant and brought a complaint to the Commission claiming a violation of his right to safety.
The police officer transporting the suspect explained that the police decided not to secure the suspect with a seatbelt given the restraints used such as handcuffs and ropes and relatively short travel distance of 14km.
The Commission stated in its decision that a police vehicle used for transportation of a suspect usually follows predetermined procedures and plans and thus cannot be classified as an emergency vehicle under the Road Traffic Act and other related laws. This makes it mandatory for all persons in a police vehicle to wear a seatbelt.
The Commission, however, acknowledged that there are certain emergency situations where police vehicles are not required to seat belt suspects, including significant difficulties in performing the duty of officers caused by the suspect’s resistance, the risk of the suspect harming themselves or others and other physical conditions of the suspect that make it difficult to wear a seatbelt. The Commission concluded that in this case, the police vehicle is not exempt from the seatbelt requirement.
In the U.S., each state and city introduces their own regulations regarding the use of seatbelts during suspect transportation. For example, the Eugene Police Department and Philadelphia Police Department require the suspect be secured with a seatbelt during transportation, while the policy of the Baltimore Police Department makes wearing a seatbelt mandatory for all persons in a police vehicle.
Accordingly, the Committee on Remedies for Human Rights Violations observed that neither the police officers were in an emergency situation that exempts them from providing a seatbelt for the complainant and nor they provided justifiable reasons for their decision. The Committee found that this act constitutes a violation of the complainant’s rights to life and safety which are protected under Article 10 of the Constitution.
The Committee, however, recommended revision of regulations relating to suspect transportation rather than holding individual officers to account, given that police officers generally follow the Korean National Police Agency’s policy on custody and transportation of suspects which defines matters relating to the safety of suspects in rather abstract terms.