"The year before last, about 250 policemen and civilian employees of the police were summarily dismissed. Prior to the major reforms implemented in 2000, however, these figures were far fewer."
A freelance journalist, referred to only as "T," tells a special issue of Shukan Jitsuwa (May 2) magazine subtitled "The Taboo" about more stringent efforts by police to police themselves.
"T" estimates internal disciplinary measures may total about 1,000 cases per year; however, only a few result in offenders' arrest or prosecution while still employed by the police.
"First, the authorities will nudge offenders out by getting them to resign, so they would be described in any negative news reports as 'a former policeman,'" says "T."
Unless their offense was serious enough to warrant prosecution, resignation enables them to receive their pension. And some, flaunting their experience as an ex-cop, might even manage to land a civilian job via the "amakudari" system. Of course, the pension payouts also buy their silence.
To make matters worse, the media are also discouraged from covering police indelicacies. Reporters who too energetically pursue news of crimes by cops might find themselves locked out of the police reporters' clubs, which cuts off their access to information from official channels.
That's why such cases seldom become major news items, "T" points out.
One exception to the above were revelations by the Hokkaido Shimbun in 2004 about a police slush fund. Although the scale of the malaise was huge -- reportedly one-third of the entire Hokkaido force of 10,000 men was said to be involved -- only about 100 were hit with disciplinary measures. The police handed back over 250 million yen of their ill-gotten gains to the prefecture.
The head of Hokkaido's prefectural police brazenly asserted at a press conference that there was "no evidence of improper accounting or diverting of funds to personal use."
Shukan Jitsuwa is particularly contemptuous of the media's cozy collusion with police, such as through broadcasts of those ubiquitous "Police 24 Hours" type programs, TV specials it describes as a "120-minute-long PR commercial for the police."
The contents of these "phony documentaries" are carefully manipulated to make the police look good, and carefully avoid their cock-ups, such as raids where they pounce on what turns out to be the wrong location or failing to nab a suspect.
"Hey," suggests "T" tongue in cheek, "how about having cops appearing in a comedy-variety, show with scenes of crimes committed by cops instead?"
There's certainly plenty of material to work with. Like these:
-- Aug, 2009, in Osaka: A patrolman (age 26) publicly exposed himself on the way home from a drinking party with colleagues.
-- Oct, 2009, in Hokkaido: A 45-year-old inspector was dismissed after he took home a 17-year-old female runaway and allowed her to stay for three weeks.
-- Oct 2009, in Tokyo: A 25-year-old patrolman was arrested after using an "encounter site" to supposedly invite a 16-year-old girl to a hotel for a "job interview" at a sex delivery service.
-- Dec 2009, in Kanagawa: A 32-year-old sub-inspector was caught attempting to take photos up women's skirts on an escalator in a station building.
In addition to these, adds Shukan Jitsuwa, there are plenty of other cases: sexual assault, fraud, extortion and accepting bribes. During a police raid on a sex shop, two off-duty cops were found in the waiting room; the names of several officers were found on the customer list of an illegal money lending business; and cops were nabbed with stimulant drugs that had previously been confiscated from a pusher.
The magazine, nonetheless, reminds readers that these bad apples represent only a tiny percentage of the total number of men in blue. Still, they are part of a privileged group endowed with authority by the state.
The police are a rigidly disciplined organization, and some officers become stressed out and get themselves in trouble, "T" observes. "Perhaps this is the reason why the others tend to be sympathetic toward colleagues who go astray."© Japan Today