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2013年4月22日 (月)

尼崎事件検証 「民事不介入」の意識を改めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 22, 2013
Police must do away with mind-set of nonintervention in civil disputes
尼崎事件検証 「民事不介入」の意識を改めよ(4月21日付・読売社説)

If only there was no chain of negligence by police authorities, a string of murders could have been prevented from cascading into the worst possible outcome.

We cannot help but believe this, given that the police responded to these heinous crimes with abyssal sloppiness.

The Kagawa prefectural police announced Friday results of follow-up investigations into the killings of four members of a Takamatsu family in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, acknowledging that the cases were handled "inappropriately."

Miyoko Sumida, the prime suspect in the slayings, hanged herself in her cell in December at age 64. Sumida and her alleged accomplices had wormed their way into the victims' homes from February 2003.

Vast negligence

Since that time, a male family member and 16 of his relatives and acquaintances sent reports to and sought help from the prefectural police headquarters and five police stations as many as 36 times, according to the announcement.

However, those pieces of information were not shared among prefectural police authorities. In fact, the police viewed the reports and complaints as concerning separate domestic incidents. As a result, they failed to question Sumida and the others involved even on a voluntary basis.

It is only natural for the prefectural police to apologize to survivors of the deceased and others concerned over a string of blunders in the murder cases.

That the police refused to accept a damage report that the male member of the victimized family tried to file is also troubling. According to the announcement, the police failed to act on the reports of violence and harm because they "contained no exact dates or locations, and so could not be investigated as criminal cases."

The police showed outright negligence in the course of their duties. They need to keep in mind the need to adequately assess and respond whenever there arises the possibility that citizens' lives may be in danger or at risk of physical harm.

The way the Hyogo prefectural police handled the series of murders suspected to have been masterminded by Sumida must never be overlooked.

When the first daughter of the man of the victimized family was taken to Amagasaki from Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, an acquaintance of the family who witnessed the abduction by a group led by Sumida turned to the police for help. However, they did nothing to resolve the matter, on the grounds that the incident was considered "domestic trouble." The daughter subsequently is believed to have been killed by Sumida and her cohorts.

Underlying the behavior of the two prefectural police headquarters must be the idea of "noninterference by police in civil matters." This mind-set that disputes between individuals should be settled either by the parties involved or by the courts has firmly taken root among police officers.

Certainly, the police can hardly be expected to respond to every little civil disturbance due to limited manpower. If police wielded their power arbitrarily, they would run the risk of aggravating such disputes.

However, lessons from the past must not be forgotten in this connection.

The murder of a woman by her stalker in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture, in 1999 took place primarily as a result of the police's failure to launch an investigation on the basis of "nonintervention in civil matters."

Change modus operandi

In the wake of this case, a council on police reform set up by the National Public Security Commission compiled an emergency proposal calling for eliminating "a misconceived notion of noninterference in civil matters." Unfortunately, this mode of thinking has persisted among police officers, who hold the key to change.

Not only stalking cases but also those involving domestic violence and disputes between neighbors have been on the rise. The number of cases in which people seek police assistance over disputes has also been increasing.

The police force as a whole must change its ingrained mode of thinking that is based on noninterference in civil matters to nip potentially criminal cases in the bud.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 21, 2013)
(2013年4月21日01時13分  読売新聞)


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