Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Japanese Police & Crime in Japan
Photo of Hotel in Enoshima by Norikazu Yamaguchi
by Chris Cutts
The Japanese have an almost unique system of policing which despite its embracing of high tech in most of its processess it is also a strangely quaint mirroring of the British police prior to the 1980's from which I will draw comparisons for which I apologize to North American readers. Japan has the lowest crime rate of any of the major industrialised countries in the world; coupled with a detection rate which is the envy of the civilized world, it would appear on paper that Japan is a utopia with regard to crime.
But all is not as it seems. The Japanese like any society past or present has its own almost unique profile of crimes with most crimes recognised as such by all societies(murder,robbery,dropping litter etc.) Japan does not recognise or account other problems which would drastically change the paper figures and bring a more realisting picture of the situation. The situation with regard to the Japanese not recognise an offence is best exemplified by the chikans who would in any other country would be doing at least 3-5 years for persistant sexual assault remembering that sexual assault is but one step down from rape but because of Japan's extreme "one of the boys"culture it is recognised as a crime only on the statue book.
The other issue which is missing from Japanese figures is that civil law is outside the perview of the police and are handled by other agencies and do not appear on the end figures. So why has this situation arouse and the answer is probably in the structure of Japanese law enforcement which was founded on the basic model created by sir Robert Peel and has kept to its basic original structure, principals and biasts more than any of its contemperies in modern societies inheriting both its strengths and its weaknesses. Basic unit is the police box( koban's in urban areas and chuzaisho's in rural areas unfortunately only as Doctor who's TARDIS in Britain) and not the patrol car and are very similar to the original peel principal of the section house with a compliment of 12 uniformed officers with a sergeant( junsa-bucho) and 3 policemen( junsa) on a four shift rotation working the local beats and in my opinion give the japanese police one of its greatest strengths and a lesson to other modern police that you can learn more about your area on foot or on a bicycle than driving round at high speeds trying to look cool in a patrol car.The junkai-ren which is probably the best idea to come out of Japanese law enforcement in that this twice a year residence survey forefills in one swoop the two main functions of the uniformed patrol officer that of crime prevention and collation of local information.
However the main weakness is that it takes probably two years before an officer really gets to know his area. The next one up are the police stations which are similar to British divsional stations and are the headquarters for the local kobans and home for officers of the more specialilized sections who carry out roles such as traffic and criminal detection and because they consider themselves on a higher plane have there own versions of the british nickname "woodentops" too describe uniformed beat officers for their poorer detection rates but that is not uniforms principal function Above these are the ivory towers of Tokyo metropolitan police department and prefecturial police headquarters the home of the highest ranking officers such as the keishi-sokan(superintendant general of the Tokyo metropolitan department) and keshi-kan(superintendant supervisor) equal to met commissioners and provincial chief constables respectively.
So where do the problems really set in, firstly when the post war police were set in 1948 with a new police law the police became limited in their duties and many social problems other police forces in the world help to tackle come outside the scope of the Japanese police this makes the figures look good but does not help solve the problems.
Secondly the training system is so class room oriented probably because with all officers must be at least high school graduate and 40% having a degree from a four year university.High school graduates spend one year of police shool, three months field work and then six months of training and disscussion for college graduates its eight months,three mnoths and four months with the curriculum set by the national police agency.You do not get a coppers nose or the mysterious meathods of "the ways and means act" fom a book but only from experience on the beat and with the exception of fraud the last man to be caught by using a book was Al Capone.
Thirdly 98.1% of officers are male,come on chaps thats why some things don't prosicuted because it's boys will be boys, a villains does not show discrimination on the grounds of sex so why should the police show discrimination.Female officers are normally not allowed to carry firearms(what do they expect them to use bad language!) and the old predjudice of only limited duties the shame being that nothing deflaits the "one of the boys" more than a wpc slapping on the plum duffs (hand cuffs).They can do the job as well in most cases and better in some.
Finally although extremely polite to outsiders the Japanese attitude to outsiders breaking the law seems strange.From the killing of Charles Richardson in 1862 (early example of road rage) to demanding and getting suspect marine Kurt K. Billie for trial in a Japanese court when a perfectly good court martial would have been carried out by the USMC although the Japanese goverment constantly refuses to extradite Japanese citizens for crimes committed abroad but tries them in Japan and if guilty imprisons them in Japanese prisons seems very partisan at best. Oh yes, the thought for the day if you ladies have problems with chikans on a crowed trains do not try punching they isn't the room try stamping on the top of the ankle joint because 1) it hurts more, 2)you can claim it was an accidental stumble on a moving train, 3).it doesn't half cramp their style.