Police wrongdoing taints trial

It has surfaced that Sakai Police Station in Osaka Prefecture falsified the recorded testimonies of two police officers in a trial of a 40-year-old man originally charged with violation of the stimulant drug control law. Without knowing that falsified records were used at trial, the prosecution demanded a prison term of 3½ years on March 27 and the hearings were concluded.

But on June 10, the Sakai branch of the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office announced that it had asked the Sakai branch of the Osaka District Court to retry the man because the police station disclosed that the records had been falsified.

The Osaka prefectural police have seriously damaged the public trust placed in them. A number of other police departments in Japan also have been plagued by irregularities. All police officers must take their responsibilities seriously.

The man was indicted Oct. 31 on a charge of violating the stimulant drug control law. On Dec. 2 he started shouting in the police station’s detention facility, and a 33-year-old corporal from the police station’s facility management section tried to move him to a “protection room.” He hit the police officer, and was indicted Dec. 21 on a new charge of interfering with the execution of official duties.

Two police officers on duty Dec. 2 recorded the testimonies of the corporal and a 25-year-old policeman who witnessed the incident. According to their testimony, it was the corporal who decided to put the man in the protection room. But a 50-year-old assistant police inspector of the detention facility management section who read the report said the testimonies would result in disciplinary measures against all the police officers involved. Under the law, the police station chief is the only one, in principle, who has the authority to put a detainee in a protection room.

The assistant inspector changed the recorded testimony of the policeman witness to state that a police sergeant not at the scene ordered the detainee placed in the protection room. The assistant inspector then ordered his subordinates to change the record of the corporal’s testimony along the same lines.

The wrongdoings did not stop here. An officer from the criminal section who took over the matter noticed the falsification and made new reports of the testimonies by the policeman witness and the corporal. The new reports said the corporal made the decision to put the man in the protection room but that the two police officers at first had stated falsely on their own that it was the police sergeant’s decision, thus hiding the fact that the assistant police inspector was responsible for the falsification. At the suspect’s trial, the police officers involved testified along these lines.

The officer from the criminal section later said he consulted with the Osaka prefectural police headquarters and senior officers of Sakai Police Station on how to treat the assistant police inspector’s instructions to change the reports. This implicates the Osaka prefectural police as a whole in an unlawful action.

The prosecution must carry out an investigation to determine what actually happened and take legal actions against those involved as necessary. The nation’s police must consider concrete ways to prevent wrongful actions by officers who may be tempted to consider themselves above the law. All police officers must remember the principle that not even a speck of illegal police actions should taint criminal cases.

  • Ron NJ

    “Under the law, the police station chief is the only one, in principle,
    who has the authority to put a detainee in a protection room.”
    Literally every time I run into “in principle” in this country, it only ever serves to confuse everyone involved. Less ambiguity and more hard rules – a no-brainer in a country that loves following them to the absolute letter – would go a long way towards preventing a host of issues, perhaps this incident included.