Okinawa Prefectural Police have arrested three officers on suspicion of conspiring to alter evidence to establish a drunken driving case, police said Friday.
Sgts. Senkichi Unten, 46, and Kaoru Arakaki, 33, and senior policeman Masaru Arakaki, 38, are suspected of using a breath freshener to boost the level of alcohol contained in a breath sample taken from a 19-year-old man in March.
The three officers have reportedly admitted the charges, saying they tampered with the breath sample after deciding that the detected level might not be sufficient to establish a drunken driving case.
After returning to the police station, one of the three officers is suspected of applying the spray to his own mouth and then breathing into the detector, which already contained the man’s breath sample.
“We didn’t want all our efforts (to find and test a potential drunken driver) to end up in vain,” one officer was quoted by police as saying.
Prefectural police authorities said the three were fired in disgrace Thursday.
According to the police, the three officers stopped a man who they suspected was driving a car under the influence of alcohol in the city of Okinawa at around 2:30 a.m. on March 27.
After taking a breath sample from him, they handed him a traffic ticket.
However, after returning to the police station, they realized the amount of alcohol detected on the man’s breath was just under 0.25 mg — the legal minimum for being considered drunk.
They then decided to increase the alcohol level by using the breath spray, police said.
At the time, the prefectural force was waging a campaign to crack down on traffic offenses. Police said the three were probably trying to improve their case records.
The misdeed came to light after another policeman found that papers on the man’s case stated his breath sample contained 0.25 mg level of alcohol, but the detector itself indicated 0.9 mg.
The process to fine him for drunk driving was subsequently suspended.