Police with assault weapons unnerve MRT riders
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-28 12:13 PM
National Police Administration (NPA) Director Wang Chuo-chun announced Wednesday that police officers detailed to supplement security forces on the Taipei MRT will carry handguns rather than assault weapons in the future. The police were assigned to ride the rails to restore a feeling of safety for passengers after four persons died May 21 at the hands of a 21-year-old knife-wielder on an afternoon rampage.

The NPA made the switch following feedback from passengers who said the presence of assault weapons made them feel uneasy. In addition, Interior Minister Chen Wei-jen pointed out that "basically it is not necessary" to have SWAT police officers carrying assault rifles in MRT carriages.

Wang and Chen made their remarks Wednesday morning during an appearance before the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Legislative Yuan to review a budget proposal for the NPA.

Chen stressed that the posting of 160 police to augment security forces on the Taipei MRT is a temporary measure. The Taipei City Government has said it will beef up security in the MRT system with more officers as well as backup by City Police including SWAT forces if needed.

Wang told legislators that passengers largely responded in two ways to the stationing of police officers with MP5 assault rifles in MRT carriages. Some riders felt that it is wrong to add assault weapons to the mix of people traveling in the MRT system, while others said having the weapons on board the trains did not affect them one way or the other. In addition, specially-trained police officers now assigned to four designated stations in the MRT system will also make the switch from assault rifles to less-obvious handguns.

Chen noted that the number of MRT officers will be increased from 80 to 160, largely because security forces will be on duty for longer hours in the wake of the May 21 incident. This will allow the system to draw on two shifts with 80 officers each, up from the single force of 80 officers available in the past. Chen added that the increase in the security is a temporary measure and may be adjusted in the future in accordance with conditions and the need for a security presence, and after consultation and coordination with planners in the NPA.

Wang explained that "the original request made by Taipei City was for two weeks, and that time period has not expired yet. If necessary, they will ask for an extension, but they have not asked for one right now.”

Media reports say that Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin is in favor of assigning a permanent force of 80 police officers for MRT duty but has yet to make a formal proposal on the move.

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