Monday, 1 March 2004

The Police State

Interesting story in this week's news about the police, which I thought I would share. Now personally I have a lot of time for the police in the UK, they seem to be a hard working lot, over stressed, criticised from all quarters, that sort of thing. I haven't had to much to do with them, to be honest, and long may that continue, but they seem to be trying to be doing a good job. And before anyone gets too irate in the comments section, I am looking at them from 5,000 miles away with little in the way of domestic UK news, so I may be wrong about that. I am also looking at them in comparison with the Japanese police, who are, I think, pretty shite.

I mean sh*te in a sort of useless way. Not bumbling incompetence, like the jolly laughing policeman, but a kind of arrogant, don't mess with me but if you do mess with me I won't really know what to do about it sort of way. If you take my meaning.

Anyway what got me thinking was a story in the paper. Apparently a week or so ago, a woman was out and about when suddenly she started screaming at the top of her lungs, someone had snatched her bag, you see. Now the police, far from their usual policy of waiting for two weeks before checking anything out, actually arrived at the scene as the woman was still a-screaming. (Perhaps she was near a koban or police box, which is not, as the name might suggest, a law enforcement protective, rather it is a little box-like shed found next to most railway staions where the police can relax after a long morning's doing nothing by drinking coffee). I digress, so the local coppers turn up, at which point the woman stops her screaming and, pointing, shouts 'it was him'. Keystone Cops-like our intrepid heroes turn and apprehend the larcenous individual. This proves to be a 68 year old gentleman laden with shopping bags in both hands - hardly the type to have just snatched a ladies handbag, seeing as he doesn't have a ladies handbag on his person and couldn't carry anything more anyway, let alone run, the favoured modus operandi of bag snatchers, or so I am led to believe.

Pleased with themselves, the coppers drag the bewildered shopper back to the screaming woman, only to find her gone, with out so much as a by your leave and leaving not a trace. 'Oh well', think they, 'but at least we got our man'. So they drag said man back to the koban, on, you remember, a hysterical accusation by a now disappeared woman. Unfortunately the chap, obviously not used to this sort of thing, is now bewildered and extremely stressed which, I'm afraid to say, pushes his dicky ticker into overdrive, giving him a massive coronary and leading, very shortly, to his untimely death.

All very sad, but what makes it worse is the fact that the police refuse to apologise for anything. Apparently they had a suspect who had been identified and accused by a victim and that, sadly, is good enough for them. Doesn't matter that the 'victim' has disappeared, or the chap was an elderly gent laden down with shopping, or most importantly, for the chap at least, that he died in police custody. Nope, he was obviously guilty, so they got him.


I think it is because the police, when faced with a potential crime against a person, aren't really sure what to do. Most of the crime in Japan is of the white collar kind, as reported in these pages in the past, somewhere, so most police really do sit around in their koban's all day, drinking coffee and giving directions to lost people. Now much of this is because Japan is a safe country, much safer than, say, the UK. Having lived in both I feel I can say this with some knowledge, although anywhere feels safe after living in Brixton. Japan is becomming less safe, mostly through socially maladjusted kids losing it and murdering their peers, or parents, and also Japan has always been a place where sexual harrassment goes uncommented upon - for example men groping women in trains, which has become such a problem that there are now Women Only carriages on trains in central Tokyo of an evening. But Japan is still, I feel, much safer physically than the UK.

So when the police come up against this sort of incident, they don't really know what to do, so they either go a little over the top, as with the chap above, or do nothing. In Nagasaki last year there were numerous assaults on kids around a kindergarten but the police didn't tell anyone, so the attacks continued for quite a while until the police finally thought they'd better do something about it - they did catch the guy, in the end, but a word of warning might have helped. An argument against this, I realise, is that they don't want to cause a panic. Fair enough. But how about this.

This week Shoko Asahara, the Aum Shinrikyu chap was sentenced this week. It was the death penalty for him for the 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway (and a lot of other murders, going back about 6 years, some of them using Sarin gas - was he investigated? Have a guess...). Anyway because of this there have been lots of TV news features about ex-cult members and what they are doing now. Most of them are trying to live new lives, leave the past behind, but they can't as wherever they move they have to register with the local police who then tell all their neighbours, everyone in the town, who they are and where they live, so they and their kids are attacked, threats made and houses defaced. All nasty stuff that need not happen but is basically encouraged by the local boys in blue.

Seems to have turned into quite a polemic, this one. But they are pretty useless, in my opinion. Pick on the small guys whilst letting the big fish, the yakuza, swim freely about.

But on a happier note

Let's all cheer for Middlesbrough, who finally won something for the first time in 128 years by beating Bolton in the Tin Pot Cup. Yay!

And also

Saw a very strange thing on Friday. I was on the train - clean, cheap, on time (pogo take note) - and sitting a few yards down the aisle was a girl in suspenders. I had to stop and stare. I could hardly help myself, such was the scene. Now lest you think I am one of the dirty old men mentioned above, this young lady was wearing gentlemans' suspenders, the old fashioned type that go around one leg at about calf height and are attached to the sock by a single clip. Otherwise she was quite normally attired - coat, scarf, skirt, socks and shoes. Most very odd indeed, although it is indicative of the strangeness of the fashion of young women in this country. I mean for heaven's sake, leg warmers are back in fashion right now...

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