Saga Prefectural Police covered up 1,033 traffic accidents causing death or injury

January 14, 2011

SAGA -- Prefectural police covered up more than 1,000 traffic accidents causing death or injury over a 16-month period, it has emerged.

Saga Prefectural Police announced that it under-reported the number of such accidents by 1,033 in its statistics from February 2009 to June 2010 at the instruction of two senior officers who headed its traffic bureau.

The head of the prefectural police expressed an apology for the wrongdoing. "It's regrettable that the practice has damaged the public's trust in us, and I'd like to apologize. We'll take steps to prevent a recurrence," said Mitsuo Suzuki, director of the force.

The former traffic bureau chiefs gave the instructions because the force's measures to prevent traffic accidents haven't produced tangible results," an official with the prefectural police said.

According to prefectural police officials, a traffic bureau chief who retired in March 2009 gave such instructions to all 10 police stations under his jurisdiction and his successor, who quit his job in March last year, also issued a directive.

"Minor traffic accident that caused light injuries and those which were initially reported as property damage accidents but later as those resulting in slight injury should not be included in traffic accident statistics," the directive partly reads.

In 2009, 8,548 traffic accidents that resulted in injury or death occurred in Saga Prefecture, but the number was reduced to 7,762 in accordance with the instructions.

The prefecture saw 4,147 such accidents in the first half of 2010, but the force announced that 3,900 such accidents occurred over that period.

Many members of the traffic bureau complained that the directives were inappropriate, but their bosses never took any action to rectify the practice on the grounds that that was what the bureau heads decided on, according to the force's inspection and traffic planning divisions.

After the previous traffic bureau chief retired in March last year, moves to rectify the practice gained momentum.

The cover-up was reported to Suzuki on June 8 last year. When asked why its announcement of the case was delayed until this month, a spokesman said it took time to closely investigate the case.

Kenji Kamo, head of the prefectural police inspection office, has concluded that the former traffic bureau chiefs made misjudgments when they chose to cover up over 1,000 accidents as a means to reduce its statistics. He added that the force's efforts to reduce the number of such accidents were not effective enough.

One of the two former traffic bureau chiefs expressed regret over his actions. "I feel a sense of grave responsibility," he was quoted as telling prefectural police.

Six high-ranking officials with the prefectural police have been reprimanded over the case.


Tokyo gov't appeals ruling over police negligence

22nd November, 2008


The Tokyo metropolitan government on Friday appealed a ruling that ordered it and perpetrators of a 2004 murder to pay 20 million yen in damages to the parents of the victim.

The Tokyo District Court ruled Nov 7 that 24-year-old Akiko Koide could have been found alive before being killed by her former boyfriend and his girlfriend if the Tokyo police had conducted a proper investigation after her parents consulted with the police over her going missing in December 2003. The Metropolitan Police Department said it will continue to examine the case for whether it could have provided more support when the parents of the victim asked for help, it said.


Police officer yells at relatives of victim of fatal assault

26th January 2009


A police officer yelled earlier this month at the daughter of an elderly man who died after being assaulted in Yamanashi Prefecture, prompting protests from relatives, the woman said Sunday. Yamanashi prefectural police apologized to the bereaved family for the incident, according to the 31-year-old woman whose father, Norisuke Iida, 61, died in December after being assaulted by five people.

The woman said she visited a local police station on Jan 17 to convey her dissatisfaction with the indictment of the five suspects on suspicion of inflicting bodily injury resulting in death and told a police officer she does not understand why the case is not being treated as murder.

The officer then yelled at her, saying, ‘‘What are you dissatisfied about? It’s not murder because there was no murderous intent. The police are moving in line with what the prosecutors say,’’ according to the woman.

The woman’s elder brother, who complained to the prefectural police about the officer, said, ‘‘I didn’t think we’d be treated in this way when we are the victims, so I feel as if we have been betrayed by the police.’’

The deputy chief of the police station said there may have been a lack of consideration in the way the officer spoke to the woman.