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Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005

THE ZEIT GIST

Bad boys, bad boys

Readers share experiences with the boys in blue

Dangerous encounter

Two friends and I found ourselves in front of Okayama station last week where a bunch of cars were being driven recklessly. We were on the verge of calling it a night when one friend saw a handbag lying next to a flower pot.

I picked it up and started to look for ID so I could hand it over to the police. Just then, three teeny boppers -- around 16-years-old -- approached us and demanded their bag back. I explained we had found it on the street and handed it to them. They ran off.

A few minutes later, my friend noticed a cell phone lying in the flower pot. As we picked it up, the teeny boppers approached us again, this time more beligerently and talking rudely. The leader of the pack was acting obnoxiously and claiming we had taken the phone from the bag that we had found earlier.

We explained what had happened but the leader appeared to be spoiling for a fight, and grabbed a hold of my bike to prevent me from leaving. I told her to go get the police. She ran off but returned shortly afterwards not with a cop but with some young yakuza wannabe. Within minutes the police were on the scene.

There was a lot of talk, but 30 minutes later, the situation had still not been resolved. During that time, of the eight or so policemen that had arrived on the scene, one had been raising his voice toward me and behaving quite rudely, as if he was trying to put a show on for everyone.

I asked if I could go home, I was told to wait. At this point I thought I should take photos of the people who were there because I wasn't at all comfortable with our treatment and the policemen's attitude.

I had the cell phone in photo mode and was ready to shoot when -- POW! -- the motorcycle cop who had been mouthing off earlier hit me on the side of the head -- just on the ear. Then he started pulling on my T-shirt, choking me for what seemed to be about 10 seconds. When he stopped, I fell to the ground gasping for air.

I appealed for help from the other cops, but none of them did anything to stop him or help me. I told them that my ear and throat were hurting, that I was injured and needed an ambulance.

They ordered me to stand up, asking me if I wasn't embarrassed by my behavior, and one officer called me a "baka." After a minute or so of this, I decided to call an ambulance. By the time it arrived, the police had me pinned down on the sidewalk while they tried to get my ID out of my back pocket.

When, hurt on the sidewalk, with one policeman on each of my limbs and three more standing directly above me, the ambulance arrived, the police sent it away. They asked me why I had called it. I replied that I had been assaulted by a police officer and needed medical attention. They asked me who had assaulted me -- they had seen nothing.

In the end, they took me to the police box at the train station. Having checked my ID, they let me go home at around 5:30 a.m. Before I left, I asked the name of the officer who had assaulted me. He flat out refused to tell me. I left the koban never having been accused of or charged with anything.

C, Okayama

Getting away with it

I was walking to a supermarket in Osaka City and was about 20 yards short of a police station, when ahead of a middle aged man, who seemed to have been drinking, grabbed and pushed a young woman onto Abeno Suji, a busy main street with lots of cars, buses and also the tram running down the middle.

The woman, who was walking with a friend, fell over and landed on the road surface. Luckily she appeared more shocked than hurt, but the potential of being hit by a car or bus was such that the act of pushing her could have been manslaughter at least.

The man just continued to walk on past the police station as if nothing had happened.

After checking that the woman and her friend were not seriously hurt, I ran up to the police station, pointed out the man who had pushed them into the road, and asked the policeman on guard to stop him.

Rather than try to catch up with the assailant, the policeman asked me to come into the police station, show my ID and make a report. I made it clear to the guard that the "criminal" was there in front of us. The policeman asked me to come inside again.

I asked him to leave his post for a few seconds, to show him the two women, obviously distressed, and at this point surrounded by other passersby, just yards from the police station.

The policeman at this stage was in no doubt that an incident had happened, had the culprit pointed out to him , but still insisted that I go inside to show my ID and make a report. I explained that if I did this first, the culprit would simply get away.

After several minutes of failing to get him to stop the pusher, I realized I was wasting my time and left. The policeman went back into the station. From that day on, I have had no respect for the local police, and this has only been compounded by media reports of them ignoring men burying bodies of murder victims, police corruption and brutality against suspects they want to beat confessions out of.

John, Osaka

Getting their man

I arrived in Kofu in 2003. One hot summer night, maybe after midnight, I was out riding my bicycle. As I turned a corner onto a main street I was greeted to the sights and sounds of maybe 25 or so "bosozoku."

They were revving their motorbikes, making illegal u-turns, and blowing through red lights, having a grand time.

As I continued riding, I saw coming from the opposite direction a Kofu city police van. The "bozo's" had just passed them and I figured I might get to see some Japanese cops in action.

Hah! What a joke! The jerks stopped me, a gaijin, to whine about riding without a light on my bike.

I laughed and rode away.

A riddle: Q: What's more useless than a Japanese cop? A: Two Japanese cops.

E, Yamanashi

Ignorance is bliss

I've been living in Japan for many years and have had my share of encounters with the police, among them having my bicycle stolen, duly reporting it, then being called into the local police box two years later and accused of stealing my own bike.

The cops' general stupidity did, in fact, work in my favor a few years ago, though.

I ride a motorcycle every day, and had been knocked down one day riding home from the office by an old guy in one of those mini-trucks.

He was very apologetic and agreed to pay all damages (dings & scratches). A cop soon showed up and took down all our info, encouraging us to settle up by ourselves.

Before leaving, the cop told me to come in to the police box the next day at a specified time to file my statement. I was there on time the next day, but the cop handling my case wasn't, so I told the cop on duty that I would be back later, and went from there to my local motorcycle shop to have the damage to my bike estimated.

The mechanic there, an old friend, pointed out that my registration sticker was out of date and that I needed to go through the shaken process posthaste. I got a bit nervous then, telling the mechanic that if I returned to the police box, the cop was sure to notice that my plates were out of date (like he hadn't noticed the day before) and arrest me on the spot.

The mechanic, a seasoned veteran, told me to just ignore the appointment, as well as any subsequent phone calls from the cop. I did as instructed and, sure enough, after maybe two messages from the cop left on my answering machine, I never heard from the police again.

So sometimes dumbassedness can work for you too.

Jeff

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