Japan Table of Contents
There are some 258,000 police officers nationwide, about 97 percent of whom were affiliated with local police forces. Local forces include forty-three prefectural (ken) police forces; one metropolitan (to) police force, in Tokyo; two urban prefectural (fu) police forces, in Osaka and Kyoto; and one district (d ) police force, in Hokkaido. These forces have limited authority to initiate police actions. Their most important activities are regulated by the National Police Agency, which provides funds for equipment, salaries, riot control, escort, and natural disaster duties, and for internal security and multiple jurisdiction cases. National police statutes and regulations establish the strength and rank allocations of all local personnel and the locations of local police stations. Prefectural police finance and control the patrol officer on the beat, traffic control, criminal investigations, and other daily operations.
Each prefectural police headquarters contains administrative divisions corresponding to those of the bureaus of the National Police Agency. Headquarters are staffed by specialists in basic police functions and administration and are commanded by an officer appointed by the local office of the National Public Safety Commission. Most arrests and investigations are performed by prefectural police officials (and, in large jurisdictions, by police assigned to substations), who are assigned to one or more central locations within the prefecture. Experienced officers are organized into functional bureaus and handle all but the most ordinary problems in their fields.
Below these stations, police boxes (koban)--substations near major transportation hubs and shopping areas and in residential districts--form the first line of police response to the public. About 20 percent of the total police force is assigned to koban. Staffed by three or more officers working in eight-hour shifts, they serve as a base for foot patrols and usually have both sleeping and eating facilities for officers on duty but not on watch. In rural areas, residential offices usually are staffed by one police officer who resides in adjacent family quarters. These officers endeavor to become a part of the community, and their families often aid in performing official tasks.
Officers assigned to koban have intimate knowledge of their jurisdictions. One of their primary tasks is to conduct twice-yearly house-by-house residential surveys of homes in their areas, at which time the head of the household at each address fills out a residence information card detailing the names, ages, occupations, business addresses, and vehicle registration numbers of household occupants and the names of relatives living elsewhere. Police take special note of names of the aged or those living alone who might need special attention in an emergency. They conduct surveys of local businesses and record employee names and addresses, in addition to such data as which establishments stay open late and which employees might be expected to work late. Participation in the survey is voluntary, and most citizens cooperate, but an increasing segment of the population has come to regard the surveys as invasions of privacy.
Information elicited through the surveys is not centralized but is stored in each police box, where it is used primarily as an aid to locating people. When a crime occurs or an investigation is under way, however, these files are invaluable in establishing background data for a case. Specialists from district police stations spend considerable time culling through the usually poorly filed data maintained in the police boxes.
Data as of January 1994