Police scandals threaten nation's public security
Scandals involving police officers, whose task is to protect the safety of the people, show no signs of decreasing. This is a matter of grave concern.
If police lose the public's trust, it may have a negative impact on maintaining public security, as it would become harder for them to obtain public cooperation in investigations. The National Police Agency and prefectural police headquarters must realize the urgency of the problem.
According to the NPA, 458 police officers--including administrative workers--were punished in 2012. Among them, 62 officers were dismissed and 128 were suspended. Ninety-three officers were arrested, the highest figure in the past 10 years.
Topping the list of the reasons for disciplinary measures were sexual offenses including assault and molestation; theft and embezzlement.
Those arrested included an assistant police inspector of the Toyama prefectural police who was held on suspicion of killing an elderly couple he knew and setting fire to their house. An assistant police inspector of the Fukuoka prefectural police was arrested on suspicion of leaking investigative information to men with links to a crime syndicate, and a senior policeman of the Osaka prefectural police was held over sexually assaulting a girl at a swimming beach. All of these incidents were malicious.
Young officers lack morals
Why are scandals occurring so frequently among police officers? Police believe the declining quality of young police officers is one reason. After being arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a girl, a policeman of the Kanagawa prefectural police was quoted as saying: "I've been a chronic molester since I was a high school student. I thought I would be able to quit it if I became a police officer."
It is astonishing that a police officer could so lack a sense of ethics.
In recent years, the NPA and prefectural police headquarters have increased employment as baby boomers hired en masse began retiring. More than 10,000 police officers have been hired each year recently.
It has become increasingly important to recruit people who are competent both physically and mentally. Police should work out methods to scrutinize candidates more effectively, such as putting more emphasis on interviews in order to understand their personalities and internal strengths rather than focusing on written examinations and physical tests.
It is also crucial to increase study and training sessions for young police officers to inculcate them with the philosophy that the duty of police is to serve the public.
Senior officials lack experience
We also should not overlook another problem: the deterioration of abilities of police officers in managerial positions. Cases that illustrate this tendency have been increasing in recent years, such as senior police officials failing to notice fictitious statements in investigation records prepared by subordinates. Some observers point out that due to the rapid generation shift in senior officials in recent years, more and more police officers are assuming managerial positions without sufficient hands-on experience.
Police need to work harder to assess officials' administrative abilities more accurately through performance evaluations and promotion exams.
In the late 1990s, police came under harsh public criticism due to their mishandling of such incidents as the stalking and murder of a female college student in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture. In response to such criticism, a panel of experts was established, and it made proposals on reforming the nation's police system in 2000. Following the proposals, police later introduced strict punishments for officers involved in scandals, among other reforms.
Initially, the number of police officers subject to disciplinary actions dropped, but three years ago, the figure began increasing sharply. This is a worrying trend. The entire police organization should go back to the basic philosophy of the police reform, and work hard to tighten discipline.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 5, 2013)