The traffic police unit in a provincial city in Vietnam has allowed plain-clothes officers to hunt for violators on the streets, triggering both support and concern from local residents.
While traffic police officers normally do their job at intersections or along the streets in their uniform, the police unit in Vinh, which is the capital of the north-central province of Nghe An, believes that having the officers on duty in plain clothes will increase the effectiveness of catching law offenders.
Some members of the public are concerned that the policy would be abused.
On Monday, Hoang Duy Ha, deputy head of the Vinh police force, confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that his unit is putting together patrol teams in plain clothes.
These special patrol teams will look for those traveling on motorbikes without wearing a compulsory crash helmet, and other traffic rule violations, according to the police official.
Ha underlined that the municipal traffic police unit is just following a circular issued by the Ministry of Public Security, and an action plan by the Nghe An police department.
The circular, according to Ha, stipulates that traffic officers are allowed to disguise themselves, that is to say putting on plain clothes, when they are on duty to ensure traffic order.
“Whenever they pull over an offender, the plain-clothes police are required to present their police cards and introduce themselves as law enforcement officers, before calling their colleagues [in uniform] over to book and handle the case,” Ha elaborated.
Ha added that the plain-clothes officers are not permitted to fine any lawbreaker on the spot. They are only allowed to explain the law offenses to the violators and ask to check their personal papers.
“The violators will then be taken to the nearest police station or transferred to the officers in uniform,” he said.
The policy has sparked different reactions from members of the public.
Hoang Van Khanh, 52, a Vinh resident, expressed support for the plan, saying it would help crack down on those defying the helmet-wearing rule.
“These violators tend to speed away whenever they see traffic officers in uniform, which puts not only themselves but other passers-by at risk,” Khanh told Tuoi Tre.
“Now that officers are in plain clothes, the offenders cannot avoid them anymore.”
However, Nguyen Viet Tien, 25, is concerned that the policy effectively means every motorcyclist in Vinh can be pulled over by anyone.
“When a man signals me to stop, how could I know if he is a traffic police officer to follow that request?” he said.
“It is also difficult for the public to oversee if the plain-clothes officers carry out their duty properly as it is impossible to tell them from everyone on the streets.”