KYOTO – Kyoto Prefectural Police turned over to prosecutors Friday their case against nine Kujo Police Station officers who allegedly covered up facts relating to the death of a drunken man in their custody in 1997.
The nine, including Masayoshi Takasaki, 59, then chief of the police station, are suspected of falsifying official documents to cover up the fact that the man froze to death after he was left to sleep uncovered on the floor of an unheated police garage.
The National Public Safety Commission and the prefectural police also punished the nine officers Friday.
Takasaki and four others were suspended from duty for up to four months. Three had their salaries reduced and the remaining one was reprimanded, police said.
They said Takasaki ordered the coverup of the circumstances leading to the death of the 50-year-old construction worker, who was picked up by an officer on Jan. 16, 1997, on a street in Kyoto’s Minami Ward and moved to the Kujo Police Station because he was very drunk.
Police said Takasaki told subordinates to cover up how the man died, fearing it would become public knowledge, even though he had received a report from the deputy chief that the man had died after being improperly treated.
The man died as he lay, without any covering, on the concrete floor of the police garage. The official Kujo police report said officers had kept him inside a patrol car.
The prefectural force said it has not been proven that the mishandling by the officers was the direct cause of the man’s death.
Police quoted Takasaki as saying that he was especially fearful of a scandal because a Kujo station officer had been arrested shortly before the incident in a hit-and-run case while he was drunk.
Apologizing for the incident, Iichiro Ishikawa, chief of the Kyoto force’s personnel and training division, also tried to excuse the actions of the Kujo officers.
“The officers apparently believed that since the man was heavily intoxicated, he would recover from that condition more quickly if kept in a cold place,” Ishikawa told reporters. “They also thought the man should not be kept inside the police station, which other people would visit, because he reeked of alcohol.”
Of the nine officers, two are suspected of compiling a false report claiming they tried to protect the man, though they took no such action.
Kyoto police also sent investigation papers to prosecutors on three of the officers who were directly involved in handling the man on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death. They will not be indicted, however, because the statute of limitations expired in January 2002.
The case came to light last fall as a result of whistle-blowing.
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