Police who gambled on duty reprieved

Kyodo

The Tsu District Public Prosecutor’s Office does not plan to charge six prefectural police officers who allegedly gambled while on duty, sources said Friday.

Mie Prefectural Police authorities sent files on six officers from the Kuwana Police Station who were being investigated for playing mah-jongg for money while on duty to local prosecutors.

According to investigators, the six played between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. on six occasions between August and February at a mah-jongg parlor in the town of Asahi, Mie Prefecture.

Officials in charge of disciplining prefectural police met Friday to decide on punitive steps against the six, as well as six senior officials who were then in supervisory positions at the police station. The officials include Akinobu Morishita, the station’s chief at the time, the sources said.

The prefectural force’s internal affairs office began an investigation after receiving a written tipoff that on-duty officers had been gambling, the sources said.

The six admitted gambling, saying they enjoyed it. “I just played to kill time without thinking of it seriously,” the sources quoted one of the six as saying. The officers include three assistant inspectors between the ages of 36 and 53, two sergeants, aged 49 and 50, and a 35-year-old senior policeman.

They belonged to the station’s criminal investigation and patrol divisions.

The six met up at the parlor on Feb. 3 and 4 after leaving the station on the pretext of conducting an investigation, the sources alleged.

They played mah-jongg for about three hours each day, betting 50 yen for each 1,000 points, the sources claimed, adding the six arranged the games over their cell phones.

At a news conference, Takayuki Sakai, head of the station’s patrol division, said, “It is extremely regrettable that such an incident happened in the middle of our efforts to prevent scandals. I would like to issue a sincere apology to the people of the prefecture.”