At around 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, a customer at a convenience store in Osaka’s Kita Ward found two startling things inside the shop’s toilet: a pair of handcuffs and a loaded gun.
The customer informed the manager, who in turn informed the police, who then were able to trace the handgun and restraints to none other than one of their own officers. Earlier that morning, a 30-something police sergeant who was assigned to a security detail in the area had also been at the convenience store in order to use the toilet.
The officer had removed his belt entirely and to hang it on the hook on the inside of the toilet door (more commonly used for hanging the occupant’s bag or coat), and attached to the belt were his holster, pistol and cuffs. Apparently, he forgot to strap his belt back when he left the toilet to go back to work.
In total, about 30 minutes passed between the officer leaving the items behind and them being recovered, and it’s a testament to how safe Japan is that not only did the people who found them promptly contact the proper authorities, the officer himself hadn’t even noticed he was missing his firearm or restraints until he was told, implying that he believes the likelihood of using them is low enough that he feels no need to regularly recheck that they’re still there. As for not noticing that he was missing his belt, the officer was using a squad car during his shift, and sitting down likely made him less likely to notice his pants were riding at a different height than usual.
There are no signs that the gun or handcuffs were used during the 30 minutes they were unattended, but it’s still a serious screw-up, prompting an Osaka Metropolitan Police spokesperson to say “We will strive to more properly control and secure police equipment, so that this does not happen again.” You’ll notice, though, that the statement doesn’t say “so that this does not happen a second time,” which might be because Wednesday’s incident is already the second time a police officer has left a gun in that same convenience store’s toilet, with the last occurrence happening three years ago.
So why does that particular toilet keep becoming an inadvertent weapons storage locker? It might have something to do with its location, which is close to Osaka’s U.S. consulate, and thus the increased security requirements for the neighborhood. More police officers in the area means more police officers stopping by to use the toilet than at other convenience stores, and so more chances that one of them might be forgetful. The heightened security may also mean more officers in cars than on foot, which, as discussed above, would make it harder to notice a missing belt.
Sources: NHK News Web, Nikkan Sports, Jiji, FNN
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