YOKOHAMA — A former patrol unit chief at Atsugi Police Station, Kanagawa Prefecture, admitted in his first trial hearing Wednesday to charges of hazing junior officers. Masaru Kawano, 26, is the first of six former Kanagawa Prefectural Police officers charged with various abuses of authority and coverups to be brought to court. At the day’s hearing, held before the Yokohama District Court, Kawano said the details of the prosecutors’ indictment against him were correct. The indictment alleges that Kawano, who was arrested Oct. 1, put a loaded pistol up to the temple of a subordinate officer at a police dormitory in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, on the night of June 27, when his unit was assigned to patrol Narita airport. When the subordinate hunched down in fear, Kawano proceeded to press the gun against the back of his head, the indictment says. In another incident, on March 6, he allegedly singed the body hair of four subordinates with a lighter at a police dormitory in Isezaki, Gunma Prefecture, where his unit was helping out at the track and field World Indoor Championships. Although the hazing came to light on Sept. 2, senior police officers on the force initially denied that a pistol had been used, kicking off a series of embarrassing press conferences in which senior officials appeared to contradict themselves. Two days after the denial about the pistol, the police made an about-face and acknowledged that a gun was involved in the incidents, saying their previous explanation was distorted by “mistaken vocabulary usage.”
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