Have you ever used a public toilet, and when finished, forgot to zip up your pants or tuck your shirt in properly? It’s pretty embarrassing, but now imagine that instead of those things, you leave behind a lethal weapon in an area where people with extremely short-fuses are known to patronize.
That a level of embarrassment is felt by a growing number of police officers across Japan who have left their firearms hanging up in toilet stalls. The most recent incident took place on Jan 24 when a 26-year-old officer with the Narita Airport Police left his belt with handcuffs and a loaded handgun in the airport’s employee restroom.
Luckily, it was recovered by another worker at the airport only four minutes later and nothing came of the misplacement. The officer explained by saying, “I forgot,” and the airport police issued an apology saying they would take steps to prevent this from happening again.
At least that was in a lavatory with somewhat limited access. However, only a week earlier a 31-year-old officer left his belt, with loaded pistol attached, in the restroom of a 7-Eleven in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, proving once again that you really can get anything at a 7-Eleven in Japan.
This time the gun was picked up by a customer who gave it to the staff, and the officer returned about 25 minutes later to retrieve the weapon. The Aichi Prefectural Police issued a statement saying, “We sincerely apologize for giving the people of this prefecture cause for anxiety.”
About a month before that, a 49-year-old lieutenant with the Machida Department of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police left a gun with five rounds inside in a convenience store restroom. It too was discovered by a customer and returned to police custody about an hour and 45 minutes later.
This was about three months after a sergeant with the Hyogo Prefectural police was forced to resign for leaving her belt, with cuffs and loaded gun attached, in the women’s room of a train station in Aioi City. At least she had a good excuse: she was extremely busy moonlighting as a sex worker at the time.
And then there’s also the officer who left his gun in an Itami Airport restroom when the G20 summit rolled into Osaka last June. At that time, the media were wondering why this was happening so often. Tokyo Shimbun interviewed a former officer who said that the main reason for removing the guns is that because they are so heavy they would drag the pants down to the floor with it, which we can all agree is pretty gross in a public restroom.
Another officer told Tokyo Shimbun that they avoid the problem by never using toilets outside of police stations or koban (remote police offices around cities). However, that’s far from foolproof and many in Japan wonder if there isn’t a better way:
“This is really getting popular with cops.”
“At least it’s usually employee toilets.”
“We already strap the guns to them. What more can we do?”
“It looks like security is all set for the Olympics.”
“All these people are getting fired, right?”
“In airports too?! That’s terrorist central.”
“Do the police employ first-graders?”
“Either stop carrying guns on their belts or give them shoulder holsters.”
Source: Chiba Nippo, Mainichi Shimbun, Tokyo Shimbun, Jiji.com
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