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A decade of harassment by Tokyo police

Dear Minister of Justice Keiko Chiba,

I’m a 45-year-old African-American expat living and working in Tokyo. I’ve been the victim of police harassment for over 10 years. I’m continuously being stopped while riding my bike for ID checks.

I’m living in Tokyo in the Setagaya area, and the police that work from Himonya Police Station in Tokyo, which covers the Himonya, Setagaya and Takaban areas, are the ones who have been harassing me.

I’ve lived in this area for a long time — long enough for every cop that works from that station to know my face and who I am. I’m pretty much the only black guy in the area.

They don’t just stop me; they also follow me around the neighborhood in patrol cars, and undercover cops follow me in unmarked cars.

I don’t understand the reasons for this kind of harassment. I’ve never committed any crimes here, nor have I ever been arrested. I was stopped as recently as last week by two bike cops wanting to see my ID. On some occasions I’ve even been stopped twice in the same month by the same cops.

A couple of years ago I was riding my wife’s bike (sometimes I would ride her bike for shopping because it had a basket, whereas mine is a mountain bike) and the police stopped me and claimed the bike was stolen. They took me to the police station where they tried to make me sign a document stating the bike was stolen. I refused. They let me go and kept my wife’s bike. I didn’t tell my wife because I didn’t want to drag her into it.

The harassment continues on a regular basis, as it has for the last decade. It’s not about my ID, or my bike; I believe the police here are trying to discourage me from riding my bike because they don’t want foreigners, especially black guys, riding their bikes around the neighborhood.

In coordination with the National Police Agency and the Metropolitan Police, the Justice Ministry must take measures to combat racial profiling and harassment of foreign residents by local police forces.

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