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Japanese police sergeant interfered with traffic ticket to protect wife: sources

Chiba Prefectural Police headquarters (Mainichi/Mayumi Nobuta)

CHIBA -- A Chiba Prefectural Police sergeant accused of involvement in failing to issue a ticket to a traffic offender was protecting his wife, sources have told the Mainichi Shimbun.

    Papers on the sergeant and four traffic officers were sent to the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office on March 26 over allegations the latter failed to issue a ticket to a speeding driver, after the sergeant objected. The police force also announced its own disciplinary measures against the five that day, and the 56-year-old sergeant resigned on March 31. However, the identity of the driver was not revealed at the time.

    The sergeant apparently interfered with traffic law enforcement repeatedly, prompting a source within the prefectural police to comment, "Covering for a relative must not happen."

    According to the force's internal inspectorate, two motorcycle police officers pulled over a motorist driving more than 80 kilometers per hour on a prefectural road with a posted speed limit of 60 kph in the city of Chiba on Nov. 27, 2020.

    The driver reportedly made comments to one 27-year-old officer including, "There were faster cars than mine. I was picked off," and then called her husband -- the sergeant. The sergeant instructed the officers not to issue a violation, telling the other officer, 36, on the phone, "I've the most seniority in the traffic police unit. Your mode of enforcement was inappropriate."

    Upon consultation with the two motorcycle officers back at their station, their 56-year-old boss -- an inspector -- decided to issue a speeding ticket to the woman anyway. However, the sergeant called the inspector's private cellphone to protest repeatedly that the conditions of the traffic stop were "inappropriate." The following day, the inspector instructed another traffic police officer, 38, to issue a "warning" but no fine. The sergeant and the inspector reportedly used to be colleagues in the traffic police force.

    The incident emerged in December, when the prefectural police's inspectorate received a report that "a case has been handled inappropriately in the traffic police unit." Police canceled the warning on Jan. 15 this year, and issued a 15,000-yen (about $135) traffic ticket to the sergeant's wife.

    One veteran traffic enforcement officer commented, "Traffic officers require special skills to clamp down on violators while riding on a police motorcycle, so experience and the number of years in the unit matter. There may be times when sergeants give their opinion to inspectors, a higher rank. However, in this case the sergeant was acting to cover for a member of his family, which shouldn't happen, and we are sorry to prefectural residents."

    (Japanese original by Seiho Akimaru and Tatsuya Naganuma, Chiba Bureau)

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