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Use-of-Force Confusion Killing Japanese Cops

January 24, 2002  | 

Looking for a way to lower the number of officers killed in the line of duty, Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) has released new use-of-force guidelines.

With good reason. Last year three of Japan’s finest were stabbed or shot to death because they thought they were required to issue a verbal warning and fire a warning shot before using deadly force. Now Japanese police are being told in no uncertain terms that they can open fire without warning if a suspect places their lives or the lives of innocent civilians in imminent danger.

Previous use-of-force guidelines were so confusing that some Japanese cops were under the impression that they had to climb the force ladder one rung at a time--from baton, to verbal warning, to warning shot, to aimed shot--regardless of the threats they were facing. The results were tragic. In Tokyo last summer, a 51-year-old officer was mortally wounded by a knife attack as he fired a warning shot.

NPA’s new guidelines order officers to forego the warning shot in emergencies. However, police in Japan still face great scrutiny for even removing their pistols from their holsters while on duty, and the guidelines dictate in detail what circumstances allow them to draw their weapons, aim them, fire warning shots, or shoot at suspects.

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