Brief Overview of Japanese Police
One of the Safest Nations in the World
Japan is famous for its very low crime rate compare to other countries in the world. Japan has 127 million people yet street crime is almost unheard of; and the use of drugs is minimal compared to other industrialized countries. Also, Japan's homicide rate has been steadily decreasing since the 1950s, and now the country has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world.
Social and Cultural Aspect of Low Homicide Rate of Japan
The country's homicide rate is associated with a stable and prosperous society with low inequality and high levels of development. Young Japanese males now commit only a tenth of the homicides committed by their predecessors in 1955, and the age and sex distribution of victims tend to be uniform across age groups.
This has been attributed by some researchers to, amongst other factors, extremely low levels of gun ownership (the U.S. saw more than 12,000 firearm-related homicides in 2008, while Japan had only 11), the rejection of violence after the Second World War, the growth of affluence without the accompanying concentrations of poverty common in many highly developed countries, and the stigma of arrest for any crime in Japanese society.
Importance of Japanese Police for Society
One of the lowest homicide rates is archived also by the effort of Japanese police sector. In Japan, 98 percent of homicide cases are solved, according to the police data. It is an undisputed fact that Japanese police has achieved a remarkable safe society compared to other industrialized countries, and they incarcerate far fewer than for instance the UK (with a prisoner rate 3 times higher) or the US (13 times higher).
1. Documentary of Tokyo Metropolitan Police (11:52)
Introduction to The Police of Japan
Public order and safety are provided by the Prefectural Police under the oversight of the National Police Agency (NPA). The NPA is headed by the National Public Safety Commission thus ensuring that Japan's police are an apolitical body and free of direct central government executive control. They are checked by an independent judiciary and monitored by a free and active press.
The Police Act empowers the national government to establish a central police organization to control and supervise prefectural police forces on matters of national concern. The Police Act include “protecting life, person, and property; preventing, suppressing, and investigating crimes; apprehending suspects; traffic enforcement; and, maintaining public safety and order.” The Code of Criminal Procedure states that “when a judicial police official deems an offense has been committed, he shall investigate the offender and evidence thereof.” Accordingly, the police are empowered to investigate not only penal code offenses but also all illegal acts punishable under Japan’s judicial system. Most cases are investigated by the police and referred to the public prosecutor’s office for prosecution. While public prosecutors are also empowered to conduct investigations, their investigations are generally supplementary. The primary duty of the public prosecutor is to determine case dispositions and prosecute suspects.
Several other authorities such as the Japan Coast Guard and the Narcotics Control Department possess investigative powers, which are authorized by law. Their investigations are generally limited in scope and number. In addition to criminal investigations, the police perform a wide range of administrative activities to maintain public safety and order applying various acts such as the Road Traffic Act and the Anti-Boryokudan(Yakuza) Act. The police also maintain close contact with local communities to:
Handle lost and found articles;
Give guidance to juveniles;
Help people in times of disaster;
Provide care for lost children and runaways; and,
Offer counseling services to help.
History of Japanese Police
~ During The Samurai Period ~
Machi-Bugyo (town magistrate)
Machi-bugyo was a name of a governmental post in the Edo period that was in charge of administration and judicature in an urban area (called machi-kata) in a territory. This post was also set up not only in the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) but in domains. However, when just mach-bugyo was used, it generally indicated the Edo machi-bugyo that was the governmental post in the bakufu. The bakufu machi-bugyo in the Tenryo cities (the cities directly controlled by the bakufu) other than Edo were called with the city name added to their heads, for example, Osaka machi-bugyo, and was generically called ongoku-bugyo (literally, bugyo in remote provinces).
Summary of Machi-Bugyo
Edo machi-bugyo, jisha-bugyo (in charge of temples and shrines), and kanjo bugyo (in charge of finance) were generically called san (three) bugyo. The members in this post, together with those in the other two bugyo posts were also members of Hyojosho (the conference chamber), and were also concerned with affairs in the bakufu government. The number of officers in this post was basically two. In the early Edo period, daimyo were appointed this post, and later hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu).
A machi-bugyo officer went to the Edo castle in the morning, reporting to Roju members or holding meetings, and in the afternoon, made decisions and held trials, working until late night. The work in the post was known to be hard, and the rate of death while in office was conspicuous.
Until 1631when the bakufu built machi-bugyo-sho offices, the person appointed a machi-bugyo officer used his residence as the office, executing his job by providing a court (called shirasu: literally, a white sand area) in the premise.
Its territory of control was limited to machikata (the town area) of Edo, and its authority did not cover samurai residences, shrines and temples that occupied more than a half of Edo. However, the control of the town areas in front of the shrines and the temples was transferred to the machi-bugyo. In 1818, the Edo area was officially specified on a map with a red line (called shu-biki), and at the same time, the area to be controlled by the machi-bugyo was shown with a black line (called sumi-biki). The area roughly corresponds to that of 15 wards of Tokyo, or the area of Tokyo City when the city system started.
The term of machi-bugyo-sho came from the name of the governmental post, therefore, the office was actually called go-bansho (a police station) or o-yakusho (a government office) by townspeople.
The Monthly Rotation System
As the term of kita-machi-bugyo (-sho) and minami-machi-bugyo (-sho) were often used, two Edo-machi-bugyo-sho offices were placed (except for a certain period). However, this did not mean that the control territory was divided between the two offices. The job was actually conducted in a monthly rotation system (however, for each of the doshin officers who walked around watching town situations, jishinban [the town-watching places operated by townspeople themselves] to patrol were specified, and in that sense, a control territory existed naturally. However, the jishinban places allotted to a doshin officer were scattered all over the Edo city area, and were not concentrated in an area, like the XX direction in the present police). This monthly rotation system indicated that civil suits were accepted by the kita (north) office or by the minami (south) office alternatively, and ordinary jobs of the office except for the acceptance of civil suits (including criminal suits whose examinations were underway) were conducted naturally. In addition, the bugyo-sho office being its off duty turn handled unfinished law suits that were accepted by the office in its on duty turn.
The term of kita and minami were used for identifying a location where the bugyo-sho office was placed, and were not used officiallyOfficially, each of them was called "machi-bugyo-sho office" uniformly. Therefore, when a bugyo-sho office moved and the relationship between the bugyo-sho office locations changed consequently, the name of the bugyo-sho office that had not moved was also changed. In 1707 when a residence of a bugyo officer moved to an area within the gate of Sukiya-bashi Bridge on the southernmost side from an area within the gate of Tokiwa-bashi Bridge, the new residence became to be called the minami-bugyo-sho office due to its location. Then, the former minami-bugyo-sho office located in an area inside Kajiya-bashi Bridge became to be called the naka (middle)-bugyo-sho office, and the former naka-bugyo-sho office located in an area inside Gofuku-bashi Bridge became to be called the kita-bugyo-sho office.
Yoriki (a governmental post in the Edo bakufu)
Yoriki was a typical governmental post in the Edo bakufu.
In the Edo bakufu, yoriki were posted together with doshin (officers under yoriki) to assist their senior officers. In particular, machi-kata yoriki under machi-bugyo (the post in charge of townspeople's affairs or officers in the post) was famous, assisted machi-bugyo, and played the functions of administration, judicature, and police. In addition to ordinary yoriki who belonged to Bugyo-sho, there were also uchiyori who were private retainers of machi-bugyo. It could be considered that a yoriki was the head of a police station.
Yoriki was allowed to ride on a horse, and top-class yoriki officers earned a two hundred and several tens of rice crop, surpassing lower-class Hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu). However, yoriki were not allowed to have audience with Shogun nor to enter the Edo castle.
For a yoriki officer, a residence with around 300 tubo (approximately 3. 3 square meters/tubo) of premises was given.
Doshin (patrol officer)
The term "doshin" refers to one of the low-level officials of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). They served in a public office to conduct general affairs and police work as a subordinate of police sergeant under the control of magistrates, Kyoto deputies, castle keepers, captains of the great guards, head castle guards and others. Also, a lot of domains officially named ashigaru-level soldier (common foot soldier) under the direct control of the domain as doshin.
Well-known doshin officials are Machikata-doshin, who handled justice, administration, and police affairs in Edo under the town magistrate, and Sanmawari-doshin, who conducted patrols of the town. Machikata and Mawarikata-doshins as well as doshin under the investigation division for arson and organized robbery often used their private pawns called okappiki or meakashi as an investigation assistant and information source. In the light of the above, okappiki and meakashi were only private servants of a doshin, not proper members of the town magistrate's office, although they are sometimes regarded as present-day police officers. Rather, it can be said that doshin corresponds to a modern patrol police officer.
Since all the foot soldiers of the Tokugawa clan's immediate retainers became doshin when the Edo bakufu was established, various sorts of doshin were made; for example, Iga doshin and Koka doshin descended from ninja, a one-hundred matchlock infantry unit, Hachioji thousand doshin of country samurai, and so on. Those who became a doshin in the early Edo period were specially called "fudai" (hereditary vassal), and even if they lost their official titles, they were still entitled to receive salary and could leave this to their descendants. Doshin of the bakufu were not hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu) but bakushin (shogun's retainers), which were in the gokenin (shogunal retainers) class, and upper ranked doshin received an eighty-koku (crop) salary and a ration for five persons, which means they substantially had a hundred-koku income approximately. Their salary was equivalent to that of a senior vassal of a feudal lord who had ten thousands- koku crop yields.
Yoriki (police sergeant) under the control of the town magistrate and many of doshin were given their residence (which was like modern police quarters) in Hatchobori (Chuo Ward, Tokyo Prefecture), which was often used as a byword for doshin. In addition, a residence given to a yoriki was about 990 square meters and a residence given to a doshin was about 330 square meters. Since their job was disliked as it was so-called a dirty job, they formally employed a new person when his predecessor left his office although it was substantially hereditary. Lower ranked doshin such as prison patrol doshin just received a ration for five persons, but in reality they had real handsome income as they received bribes from territorial lords and merchants, so they could afford to hire some private servants such as okappiki and meakashi (thief-takers).
(literally, "investigative division for arson and organized robbery)
The Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame-kata post was for mostly cracking down such felonies as arson, robbers (burglars) and gambling. Originally, with this post being a temporary one, the officers in this post were selected from Osakitegumigashira and Mochigumigashira, both of which belonged to the standing army of the bakufu.
After the conflagration in the Meireki era (1655 - 1658), many arsonists and burglars appeared in Edo. Therefore, the bakufu established the "Tozokuaratame" post as the one dedicated for cracking down these serious crimes in 1665. After that, the "Hitsukearatame" post was established in 1683. Nakayama Kageyu, who was feared as a "Oni-kageyu" (fiendish kageyu) is known as the head of Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame-kata officers. However, at that time, the Hitsukearatame post and the Tozokuaratame post were not integrated, and it is said that the person was Naofusa NAKAYAMA, who assumed the first Hitsukearatame post, or Naomori NAKAYAMA, who was his father and was appointed to the Tおzokuaratame post on the same day. In 1699, the Tozokuarateme post and the Hituskearatame post were abolished, and the jobs came to be covered by three Bugyo posts (Jishabugyo (for handling shrine and temple affairs), Kanjobugyo(for handling financial affairs), and Machibugyo (for handling townspeople's affairs). However, in 1702 when the incident of raiding Kira's residence occurred, the Tozokuaratame post was restored, and the Bakuuchiaratame post (for cracking down gambling) was newly established. In the next year, the Hitsukearatame post was restored. In 1718, the Tozokuarateme post and the Hituskearatame post were integrated into the "Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame" post, with the post assumed by Sente-gashira (the head of sentegumi (a group of persons guarding Edo) additionally. However, this post became independent of Sente-gashira in 1862. The jobs of the Bakuuchiaratame post were transferred to the town magistrate post, in the year when the "Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame" post was introduced.
With no specific office provided, the residence of Sentegumi-gashira, for example, was used as the office. The organization of the sente-gumi (consisting of five to ten Yoriki officers (assistants) and 30 to 50 Doshin offices (placed under Yoriki)) was used as it was. However, persons having lots of experience in the cracking-down operations sometimes remained in the post even after the head of the Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame" post changed. Meakashi (persons hired temporarily) were also used as in the town magistrate's office. Nobutame HASEGAWA, who assumed the post from 1787 to 1795, is famous.
The Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame-kata post was provided with the right to investigate crimes, such as theft, burglary, and arson, but with almost no jurisdiction. Therefore, when making a judgment for a suspect who should have been administered to a punishment above the Tataki punishment (basically, beating), the matter had to be submitted for the judgment of Roju (the second-highest post in the bakufu government). The Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame-kata officers belonged to the bankata (guardians), who were military officers, and therefore, their cracking-down operations were relentless and were feared by the general public. It is recorded that they were disliked by the officers at the town magistrate offices who were engaged in investigations of crimes. Perhaps due to such a situation, villain's roles were often assigned to them, for example, in historical dramas.
The town magistrate officers belonged to the Yaku-gata group consisted of civil officers, and the Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame-kata officers belonged to the Ban-gata group consisted of military officers. One reason for this situation was that "robbers" in the early Edo period were mostly groups of armed robbers, and when they resisted, the town magistrate officers, being unarmed, could not control them (although provided with a sword as a samurai, doshin officers in the town magistrate used to capture criminals alive with jitte (short one hook truncheon) and ladders, without using the sword. In addition, criminals often set fire on the building after committing a crime in it to disrupt the investigation. Therefore, this post was established as the riot police that could crack down these criminals with arms and was provided with investigation right as well. The Hitsuke-tozoku-aratame-kata officers were permitted to take any questionable person into custody forcibly, even if the person was an ordinary person in towns, a samurai or a priest.
~ Japanese Police in Modern Time ~
In 1872, the government sent the first Superintendent General Toshiyoshi KAWAJI to Europe to study the police system. He returned the following year and in 1874 established the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department in the Ministry of Interior. This was the first modern police organization in Japan. Police power, at that time, was held by the national government.
In the process of the democratization of Japan after World War Ⅱ, under the former Police Act enforced in 1948, the Public Safety Commission system was established. This created a structure consisting of national and municipal police with the aim of ensuring democratic management and decentralization of police power.
The former Police Act had an epochal significance in that it aimed at democratizing the police. However, it had institutional shortcomings such as the existence of a multitude of municipal police forces in parallel with the National Rural Police. This caused several problems such as the inefficiency of police force operations and low cost effectiveness due to the geographical segmentation of police units and the unclear distinction of responsibilities between the municipal police forces and the national government in terms of maintaining public peace and order.
Retaining the good features of the former act and remedying its institutional shortcomings, the former Police Act was amended in its entirety into the present act in 1954. The National Police Agency was established and the present police system was formed.
Organization of Japanese Police
The Police Act empowers the national government to establish a central police organization to control and supervise prefectural police forces on matters of national concern. The act also gives each prefecture the authority to carry out police duties to “protect life, person, and property” and “maintain public safety and order” within its jurisdiction. At both the national and prefectural levels, Public Safety Commissions have administrative supervision powers over the police.
1. National Police Organization
The National Public Safety Commission (NPSC) and the National Police Agency (NPA) constitute Japanʼs national police organization.
National Public Safety Commission
After World War II, the Public Safety Commission system was established through the reform of the police. The main object of the establishment of this system was to ensure democratic administration and political neutrality of the police under the administrative supervision by the Commission which consists of members representing good sense of the public.
The NPSC supervises the NPA. The Prime Minister is not empowered to exercise direct command or control toward the Commission. This ensures the political neutrality of the Commission.
The Commission draws out basic policies and regulations, coordinates police administration on matters of national concern and sets general standards for training, communication, criminal identification, criminal statistics and equipment.
The Commission appoints the Commissioner General of the NPA and Chiefs of prefectural police organizations. The Commission indirectly supervises prefectural police organizations through the NPA.
The Commission is composed of a Chairman and five members. To make it clear that the responsibility for public safety lies with the cabinet, a state minister is assigned as the chairman, who presides over Commission meetings. Members are appointed by the Prime Minister with the consent of both houses of the Diet and serve a five-year term. Persons who served as professional public servants in police or prosecution in the last five years may not be appointed. To ensure political neutrality, no more than two members may belong to the same political party.
To fulfill its duty, the Commission holds a regular meeting once every week, and if necessary, holds additional meetings.
National Police Agency
Organization and Authority
The Commissioner General, leading the NPA, is appointed by the NPSC with the approval of the Prime Minister. The Commissioner General, under the supervision of the Commission, oversees the agencyʼs operations, appoints agency employees, and manages prefectural police organizations. The NPA, as a national agency, formulates police systems and also conducts police operations regarding cases involving national public safety, undertakes the administration of matters which form the foundation of police activities such as police education and training, police communications, criminal identification as well as the development of police administration.
Organizations Attached to the National Police Agency
NPA-attached organizations include the National Police Academy, the National Research Institute of Police Science and the Imperial Guard Headquarters.
The National Police Academy provides training to senior police officers and carries out academic research. It has nine training departments, including Community Safety, Criminal Investigation, Traffic, and Security Training Departments. Experts in each department serve as instructors or researchers. Academy sub-units that provide advanced and expert training and conduct research are: the Highest Training Institute for Investigation Leaders, the Research and Training Center for International Criminal Investigation and Police Cooperation, the Police Policy Research System of Public Safety Commissions Authority Administrative Supervision Authority Administrative Supervision Supervision and control within the agency’s defined duties Note 1 The Commissioner General is appointed by the NPSC with the approval of the Prime Minister Note 2 Superintendent-General of MPD is appointed by the NPSC with the consent of Tokyo Public Safety Commission and approval of the Prime Minister. Chiefs of Prefectural Police are appointed by the NPSC with the consent of the respective PPSCs Prime Minister National Public Safety Commission Chairman (Minister of State) 5 Members National Police Agency Prefectural Police Organization Prefectural Police Headquarters Prefectural Governor Prefectural Public Safety Commission 3 or 5 Members Commissioner General 3 Center, the Police Info-Communications Research Center, the Police Info-Communication Academy, the Research and Training Center for Financial Crime Investigation, and the Research and Training Center for Interview and Introduction Technics.
The National Research Institute of Police Science conducts research in forensic science and applies the results of such research in the examination and identification of evidence collected during police investigations. It also conducts research on juvenile crime prevention and traffic accidents. The Instituteʼs seven departments are: General Affairs; First, Second, Third and Fourth Forensic Science; Criminology and Behavioral Sciences; and, Traffic.
The Imperial Guard Headquarters provides escorts for the Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince and other Imperial Family members. It is also responsible for the security of the Imperial Palace and other Imperial facilities. It consists of the Imperial Police Administration, the Imperial Security and the Imperial Escort departments.
Regional Police Bureaus
Regional Police Bureaus (RPB) are subordinate to the NPA. There are seven RPBs nationwide. They are located in major cities of each geographic region. Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and Hokkaido Prefectural Police Headquarters are excluded from the jurisdiction of RPBs.
Headed by a Director General, each RPB exercises necessary control and supervision over and provides support services to prefectural police within its jurisdiction, under the authority and orders of NPAʼs Commissioner General.
Attached to each RPB is a Regional Police School that provides police personnel with education and training required for staff officers as well as other necessary education and training.
2. Prefectural Police Organizations
The Police Act requires that each prefectural government has its own police organization to carry out police duties within its jurisdiction.
Prefectural Public Safety Commissions
Prefectural Public Safety Commissions (PPSCs) are under the authority of elected prefectural governors. PPSCs supervise the prefectural police by drawing out basic policies for police operations and establishing regulations in regard to the safety of the public. They are also authorized to issue licenses for adult amusement businesses, firearm possession, and driving. However, neither PPSCs nor prefectural governors have powers to intervene in individual investigations or specific law enforcement activities of the prefectural police.
Some PPSCs consist of five members, while others consist of three. Persons who served as professional public servants in police or prosecution in the last five years may not be appointed as members. Members are appointed by prefectural governors with the consent of prefectural assemblies and serve a three-year term. The members then elect their chairman among themselves. In PPSCs, a majority of the members may not belong to the same political party.
Metropolitan Police Department and Prefectural Police
Organization and Authority
The local police force of Tokyo is the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), while all other prefectures have their own prefectural police. The MPD and prefectural police have identical functions and authorities within their jurisdictions.
Obtaining the consent of the Tokyo Public Safety Commission, the NPSC appoints the Superintendent General, the chief of the MPD, with the approval of the Prime Minister. The NPSC appoints prefectural police chiefs with the consent of the respective PPSCs.
Police Stations, Police Boxes, and Residential Police Boxes
The MPD and the prefectural police divide their jurisdiction into districts and place a police station in each of them. As operational units at the front line, police stations perform their duties in close contact with the local community.
Police boxes (Koban) and residential police boxes (Chuzaisho) are subordinate units of police stations and are located throughout their jurisdiction. They are the focal points of community police activities and play a leading role in the maintenance of the safety of local communities.
Relations Among Prefectural Police Organizations
When large-scale incidents and crimes across prefectural borders occur, other prefectural police forces and the NPA render assistance. Each prefectural police can also exercise its authority in other prefectures for protecting the life and property of its residents and maintaining the public safety of its prefecture.