The National Police Agency has drawn up a bill to reform the Police Law that would, if enacted, authorize the National Public Safety Commission to instruct the head of the NPA to investigate questionable police conduct, police sources said Monday. Under the proposed reform measures, each prefectural public safety commission would also be authorized to order the head of each prefectural police headquarters concerned to inspect improper police conduct, the sources said. NPA officials have been studying ways to strengthen the public safety commission system after a series of ignominious cases involving Kanagawa Prefectural Police officers. Although the current Police Law provides for the public safety commission to “control” police as a means of democratic supervision, in truth the commission rarely intervenes in the administration of the police. According to the proposals, national and prefectural police chiefs are required to inform the National Public Safety Commission or a prefectural public safety commission of improper police conduct. The commissions can then issue specific instructions to police authorities. Moreover, the terms of commission members, which are indefinite, would be limited to a maximum of two five-year terms for national commission members and three three-year terms for prefectural commission members, under the proposed bill, the sources said. The plan to limit the terms is intended to prevent the two sides from developing cozy relations and to help maintain proper professional relationships, they added. Toyo Atsumi, a professor of law at Chuo University, said the proposed changes are a good step toward making the police law return to what it was originally designed to achieve. Upper House member Michio Sato, a former prosecutor general of the Sapporo High Public Prosecutor’s Office, said, however, that the government does not need to reform the existing Police Law because current legislation achieves all that it is designed to do. What the system really needs, Sato said, is effective members of the public safety commission, most of whom are now elderly.

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