Something must be done to prevent police from being robbed of their guns

The Yomiuri ShimbunAnother police officer’s handgun was stolen. Are there any cracks in the countermeasures that have been taken thus far? The police must do their utmost to prevent similar incidents from recurring.

A 26-year-old policeman was attacked by a knife-wielding suspect in front of a police box in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, and his handgun loaded with five bullets was stolen.

The Osaka prefectural police found the alleged attacker about 25 hours later in Minoo in the same prefecture in a mountain forest about eight kilometers from the scene of the attack. The man, a 33-year-old Tokyo resident, was arrested on suspicion of robbery and attempted murder.

Although he denies the charges, he was in possession of the policeman's handgun, and evidence was found that suggests he had fired one shot. Why did the man steal the officer's handgun? Clarification of the whole situation is needed.

Just prior to the incident, police received a report of a burglary and sent two of three police officers on duty at the police box to investigate. The third policeman was attacked when he was leaving the police box to join the others. The report turned out to be false, raising the possibility that this was a premeditated crime, planned to be carried out at a time when resources were thin.

The Osaka prefectural police released video footage of a man that had been recorded on local security cameras at a stage when it was not certain if he was a suspect. This unusual response led to the swift identification of the suspect.

Police also learned of the suspect’s detailed movements toward the mountains. It can be considered that the investigation to track him down, including the analysis of video footage recorded on security cameras, has proved effective to some degree.

Learn from past incidents

The police informed local residents at an early stage through email security alerts and other resources. The same prefectural police department was criticized for its delay in releasing relevant information after a man escaped from custody from Tondabayashi police station in August last year. It can be said that the lessons learned from that blunder were put to use.

There has been a succession of incidents involving police boxes being attacked or police handguns being stolen. Last year, a police officer was stabbed to death at a police box in Toyama, and a civilian was later fatally shot with the stolen handgun. Also, a police officer was knifed to death at a police box in Sendai.

The National Police Agency is pushing ahead with the rollout of a new handgun holster, whose structure makes it difficult for anyone other than the wearer to unholster a gun. The Osaka prefectural police have also begun distributing the new holster. However, the police officer attacked in the latest incident was wearing an old holster.

There is a possibility that the handgun would not have been stolen if the officer had been using one of the new holsters. The agency must expedite the rollout of the new model.

The policeman was stabbed seven times in the chest, back and other parts of his body despite the fact that he was wearing stab-proof clothing. Why couldn’t it protect him from the attacker’s knife?

Irrespective of the circumstances, the fact that a police officer was robbed of his handgun is grave. It is necessary to conduct a thorough investigation to clear up the cause of the latest case.

With 6,260 locations across the country as of April last year, police boxes are at the forefront of crime prevention in local communities. They must serve as facilities near communities and be accessible to local residents. How to ensure both the security of local communities and the safety of local police officers is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

With the summit of the Group of 20 major economies to be held in Osaka on June 28 and 29, police are beefing up inspections and patrols. They must tighten security and remain vigilant.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 18, 2019)Speech


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