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Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012

News photo
Their word against the law's: Jian Macdonald, now 9, poses on the bike that he and his father, Todd, allege was vandalized by a nightstick-wielding police officer during an argument outside the Marui department store in Senju, in Tokyo's Adachi Ward, on Oct. 29. Jian and Todd say the officer punched Jian in the shoulder and shook him violently when he tried to take a cellphone video of the altercation between his father and the officer, during which the bike's front fender was apparently broken. SIMON SCOTT

HAVE YOUR SAY

Questions raised about account of Tokyo cop assault

Some readers' responses to the Jan. 24 Zeit Gist column by Simon Scott, headlined "American claims Tokyo cop assaulted son, 8":

Poor excuse for a news story

Can someone please explain to me how this constitutes news? Is this the kind of story that would fill a page in any metro paper in the world?

As far as I can tell, this is what happened: A father lost his cool, a cop lost his cool and a kid got caught in the crossfire. I genuinely sympathize with the father-son pair, but this really is a case in which one must stay calm and carry on.

There were no injuries, no charges, no arrests. If want to use this incident to illustrate racism among Tokyo's finest, then you're going to have to do a lot better than this.

There is something to be said for championing the rights of non-Japanese, but when those foreigners comprise angry white men, with friends in the media, it's just lame. And yes, I'm looking at you, Debito et al.

We've come a long way, but obviously not far enough.

PETER ASTON
Tokyo

Attitude as big as his bike

The Free Choice Foundation has, on occasion, lodged complaints with the police regarding the treatment of foreigners. Additionally, at the beginning of this year I visited the office of a Diet lawmaker to discuss the possibility of getting a new guideline enacted to prevent police from questioning and carding foreigners without just cause.

I say this to indicate that I am certainly no fan of the police. However, "American claims Tokyo cop assaulted son, 8" is lopsided. This is not a police vs. foreigner issue.

In Japan, the use of lights by the police is different from in Mr. Macdonald's country. In Japan, lights on means "we are out patrolling the streets" in much the same way as "on air" means a TV station is broadcasting. It does not mean "pull over." A siren means "get out of the way," and a loudspeaker is used to pull someone over.

Had the author done his homework, he would have made the article less biased and more informative. Macdonald had no right to shout at the police or insist they turn off the lights, as they were not directed at him in any way. Following an emergency vehicle is also not advised.

I will refrain from commenting on what he said happened after that, but the article gives me the impression that Macdonald's attitude is as big as his bike.

RON KESSLER
Free Choice Foundation
Hyogo Prefecture

Avoid the stress — ride a bicycle

As an American motorcyclist who lived and rode in Tokyo for a number of years, I read of Mr. Macdonald's run-in with the police with interest.

Only a fool, or a gaijin, would voluntarily interject themselves into police business and then try to photograph the affair! As a long-term resident of Tokyo, Mr. Macdonald no doubt learned this lesson long ago.

So, what induced this apparent brain fade? In a word, stress.

Riding a bike in Tokyo is stressful enough; riding with your kid on the back is doubly so. Add a cop car on your rear wheel with the lights flashing and the chances of a rider going ballistic are very real. I had a few run-ins with taxis myself during my early years.

The only advice I can offer to Americans riding bikes in Japan is to chill out and remember that you're not in America anymore. If the local traffic conditions and driving habits are too intimidating for you, take the trains or ride a bicycle.

In my case, I didn't enjoy riding my motorcycle in Tokyo, switched to a bicycle and had a great time zipping around the city like a madman!

NICK VOGE
Honolulu

Encounter could've been avoided

Something did not sit right with me after reading this article, and I dare say others will be thinking similar thoughts.

Quite why this father decided to follow the police (who follows the police?!) after they had passed him, indicating they obviously weren't concerned with him, raises a red flag in my mind as to this individual's character. What comes to mind is that he is one of those arrogant people that has to stick their noses in wherever they please. Maybe he is just petty.

Regardless, if he had just driven home after realizing the police were not pulling him over, all of this unpleasantness could have been avoided. Making a scene, getting in cops' faces, then asking your son to take pictures of the scene for you seems like very poor parenting, and I question this man's judgement and integrity.

Since this is a he-said-she-said situation, what really happened will remain a mystery, but generally speaking I don't think a Japanese police officer would "hit" a defenseless little boy. Perhaps he got bumped in the confusion caused by his arrogant father passing him the camera, "Here son, help Daddy out!"

By the way, why no photographs of the father or the boy's supposed injuries? I guess sad-looking kids gather the sympathy vote.

All in all, quite a poor article. Surely there are more important/interesting things to write about? Parents with messed-up social skills who make poor decisions that drag their children into unfortunate situations do not warrant page space.

LIAM GLASGOW
Auckland

Police will circle their wagons

The police bully who allegedly assaulted Todd Macdonald's son Jian was simply acting in a manner all too common when Nippon's finest find themselves dealing with "uncooperative" gaikokujin. The officer in question was attempting to assert his authority, perhaps feeling a bit inferior and seeking to establish his role as a public authority figure.

Tokyo's police force sees nothing wrong with surveillance cameras being installed all over the city, so that it can keep an eye on the public 24/7, but how annoyed some police officers become when they are being photographed or videotaped by a member of the public! Double standard here. And then for the police department to deny that an 8-year-old child was assaulted is very troubling.

Of course the department store security guard "saw nothing." He wants to keep his job and perhaps if he's young and not too bright, he might even aspire to join the Tokyo police force one day.

If this incident of suspected police abuse occurred near a public street, which it did, are there no witnesses to testify in court about what happened?

I'm assuming that Todd Macdonald is Caucasian. If he'd been Asian Chinese or African black, that nightstick might have come crashing down on his shoulders and face! And folks at The Japan Times know exactly what I mean.

The officer who assaulted young Jian should be forced to resign or possibly be arrested for assault and battery or for child abuse. Instead, the police department will circle its mighty wagons and stonewall the entire incident. Videotape of the crime scene will vanish into thin air.

If the police commander won't reprimand or fire the police officer who assaulted young Jian, he should at least demand that the slightly psychotic dope be transferred to a desk job or sent to patrol some remote corner of Tohoku.

ROBERT MCKINNEY
Winona, Missouri

Lucky he wasn't in the U.S.

I suggest Mr. Macdonald starts watching (the reality show) "Cops" on the Fox Crime cable channel. Then maybe he will realize how "kindly" the police would have treated him in his own country if he had shouted "Kese! Kese!" at a patrol car, asking them to turn off their flashing lights.

AFTAB HIRAO
Tokyo

Avoid the police if at all possible

I felt very sad when I read that story, because obviously a small misunderstanding let the situation spin out of control. It seems the police did not react in a professional manner, but I am also a bit puzzled as to why Todd Macdonald followed the police and tried to press for an explanation of their behavior.

As a long-term Tokyo resident, he should know that Japanese police never need to justify their actions, be they dangerous, irrational or simply stupid. My advice is to avoid any contact with police if at all possible.

KIM WETT
Nagoya

Father went looking for trouble

Reading the brief summary of the article on the front page, I was initially shocked. As someone with a Japanese and German background, my sister and I have also been subjected to racial profiling by the police.

One thing is being asked to present an alien registration card, which we don't have, since we have Japanese citizenship. I believe that something like this would lead to great controversy in the U.S. The great public resistance that came from the law that was passed in Arizona a few years ago that allows police officers to ask Hispanic-looking people for ID proves this.

However, after reading Macdonald's side of the story, I believe that he reacted too strongly right from the start. I got a feeling that he was this upset because he thought he was being racially profiled. However, his wearing of a helmet clearly would have concealed the fact he is a foreigner.

When he followed the police, it was clear to me that he was looking for an argument. I can't think of any situation in which you would benefit from going in with an "everyone's trying to get me" mentality.

Regardless of whether the police assaulted his son or not, I think that he should have let the whole thing go in the first place, because the police were driving off.

Even worse is that he is using his son as a shield (after involving him!) to accuse the police of an assault which he initiated.

LILIA SONNTAG
Yokohama

Dad should have been arrested

I recently read the story about the American claiming that Tokyo police assaulted his son. You have to wonder about the state of mind of the father.

It is very common to see police officers patrolling the streets with their light bars turned on, and it makes perfect sense, making them more visible to the general public. The American should have done what most normal people would have done, and gone home. But he chose to follow the officers and confront them. But for what? I still don't understand.

If anything, the father should have been arrested for obstructing a police investigation.

BRIAN HANSEN
Chiba

A typical police coverup

I live not far from the Marui store in Kita-Senju. Therefore, out of curiosity while walking my dog, I walked over to that location. I saw the exact place where the boy is sitting on the motorcycle (in the accompanying photo).

The street is a couple of lanes wide and where the police car would have been parked would have been equal to at least another lane. This means that when the original picture was being taken of the police car, the Macdonalds would not have been in the way at all. They would have been completely across the street and not interfering.

In addition, I believe that it is the Macdonalds' right to take a picture of a public employee or vehicle.

As for security cameras, I only see one pointing in towards the store, not out towards the street. I asked a Marui employee who was outside the store and he also pointed out to me that no security cameras are pointed out towards the street.

The 8-year-old son speaks nicely about the officer in Ueno (who let him sit on his motorcycle), but not about the "crazy man" that hit him. Sorry, but I don't think the 8-year-old would have made up the story he told the reporter.

I believe this is a typical police coverup. I notice that you state that they launched an "internal probe." Yes, "internal" as in they are covering their own butts. Otherwise they would have shown the video to your reporter.

ROBERT RATCLIFFE
Tokyo

Poles apart on Debito; 'half' label derogatory

Hitting the nail on the head

Debito Arudou hit the nail squarely on the head with his top 10 human rights events of 2011 list ("Kim to 'flyjin,' a top 10 for 2011," Just Be Cause, Jan. 3). I fear he is correct — the system is irredeemably broken; however, most Japanese and even many foreign residents are so trapped in the fishbowl of Japan that they cannot see this simple fact even though it is staring them in the face.

This is why Debito Arudou is needed so badly. As a naturalized Japanese, he came from outside the fishbowl and could recognize the systemic rot in Japan for what it is. Sadly, his pointed commentary often went ignored while he was here inside the fishbowl. Indeed, as was done to (ex-Olympus CEO) Michael Woodford, his employer and Team Japan did all it could to silence him.

Now that Debito has freed himself of the system, I hope he will be able to apply gaiatsu (outside pressure) from his new adopted home of Calgary, Alberta, and continue to shine his light in the dark crevices of Japanese society, and I hope The Japan Times continues to print his salient insights for a long time to come.

JAMES GREY
Sannomiya, Hyogo

Rabble-rouser should move on

I was hoping that when Mr. Arudou left Japan for Canada, that would be the end of his Japanese-bashing. Apparently, The Japan Times keeps this rabble-rouser on staff to write columns to stir the emotions of us expatriates, permanent residents and others. I want The Japan Times to know: Mr. Arudou does not speak for me or many others that have moved to Japan and accepted the culture as it is.

If Mr. Arudou cannot and will not say anything good about Japan then he should keep his mouth shut. He is a bitter person and in the end left Japan, but still spews hate and stirs emotions every chance he gets. What Mr. Arudou could not have in Japan he wants to deprive others of as well with his hateful writing.

If Mr. Arudou had any integrity left in him, he would just go away quietly, start a new life in Canada, and just forget about bashing the Japanese and their culture. Its time to move on, Mr. Arudou.

DENNY POLLARD
Takahata, Yamagata

Our kids are 'double,' not 'half'

Re: Readers' responses ( Have Your Say, Jan. 31) to the Jan. 10 Zeit Gist articles, "International education a triple-A investment in your child's — and Japan's — future" and "Local Japanese school is the obvious choice if you want your child to fit in":

Thanks for the good articles on international vs. Japanese schools, but one slipup is the use of the derogatory terms "half" and "mixed-race" kids.

For the past decade or so, the term "double" has been used instead to emphasize the positive side of having two cultures and two languages in a family (200 percent, not 50 percent). See Reggie Life's critically admired documentary on "Doubles" (www.japanupdate.com/?id=5237)

The common perception of "half" is incomplete, not whole, and negative. Let's avoid spreading prejudice and use the word "double" or "bicultural," and call our kids "doubles."

DON HINKELMAN
Sapporo Gakuin University

Debito Arudou is currently an affiliate scholar at the East-West Center in Honolulu. Send your comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp


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