during a protest on Nov. 14
A water pressure safeguard on the police water cannon responsible for injuring farmer Baek Nam-ki during a Nov. 2015 protest was not working at the time of the incident, it was confirmed on June 28.
The police officer who was driving the truck also testified that he only saw the guidelines for its operation the day before it was mobilized. A number of flaws with the water cannon management and operation system were revealed in a hearing inspection report drafted by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) just after the incident.
According to accounts on June 28 from police and the groups Baek Nam-ki Struggle Headquarters and MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Chungnam water cannon #9, which fired the jet that struck Baek, had a broken maximum water pressure regulator, allowing it to exceed the pumping cycle of 3,000 rpm that generates the 15-bar maximum water pressure allowed by the water cannon usage guidelines in the regulations on usage standards for police equipment. Police sent the vehicle for repairs to correct the problem, but were told by the repair company that the vehicle was too old to fix.
After learning of the situation after the incident, the SMPA’s hearing inspection office questioned the officer operating the truck on whether the jet fired at Baek had exceeded the maximum allowed pressure.
Police continue to shoot farmer 69-year-old Baek Nam-ki with a water cannon as he lays unconscious on the road outside Jongno District Office in Seoul
In response, the police officer claimed that the pumping cycle never exceeded 2,800 rpm because “it would have overtaxed the truck to a degree you could physically sense.” The officer also said he had “kept watching the rpm.”
The news came to light with SMPA’s submission of a hearing inspection report to a court on June 23. After previously refusing to submit the document to the court on the grounds that the investigation was still under way, the police recently changed their stance and provided the report to the court.
The officers operating the truck were also found to have very limited experience. One of the officers in charge of truck operation on the day was both working at a demonstration and operating the truck at night for the first time. The same officer testified that he “did not see the water cannon operation guidelines until Nov. 13, which was the day before the demonstration.”
MINBYUN said, “While the police have said they followed the water cannon usage guidelines and gave the necessary instruction on usage, now there are questions as to whether the water cannon operation and management service was functioning properly.”
Observers are also questioning the thoroughness of the inspection. Police only questioned the two officers driving the truck in a Q&A format, without interviewing third parties present at the scene.
A police source insisted it was “not an insufficient investigation,” noting that the police simply “failed to finish their inspection because the prosecutors‘ investigation had begun.”
By Heo Jae-hyun, staff reporter
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