In Japan, police system generally enjoy wide community support and respect. The system, so called keisatsu seido consists of approximately 220,000 police officers who are organized into prefectural forces coordinated and partially controlled by the National Police Agency in Tokyo.
Concerning the historical development, during the Edo period – we are talking about the years 1600 – 1868 here, the Tokugawa Shogunate ( the form of those days governing the country ) developed elaborate police system based on town magistrates who held samurai status and served as chiefs of police, prosecutors and criminal judges. The system was extended by citizens Â´s groups such as five-family associations ( gonin gumi ) . These groups were composed of neighbours, collectively liable to the government for the activities of their membership.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the main change in the whole Japanese history, the Home Ministry was established in 1873. With jurisdiction over the Police Bureau, it effectively controlled the police. This new, centralized police system had wide-ranging responsibilities, includng the authority to issue ordinances and handle quasi-judicial functions. It also regulated public health, factories, constructions, businesses and issued permits, licenses and orders.
In 1911 the Special Higher Police was established to help control proscribed political activities. Later in 1928 it was strengthened with the introduction of the Peace Preservation Law. When the Sino-Japanese War began in 1937, the police were given the added responsibilities of regulating business activities for the war efforts, mobilizing labour and controlling transportatioon. Also regulation of publications, motion pictures, political meetings, and election campaigns came under police direction.
After World War II, Japan as a defeated country was under strong pressure and influence mainly from the U.S., on all branches of life, including the police system. The National Diet – the highest organ of state power was required to enact a new Police Law. This 1947 law abolished the previous Home Ministry. It decentralized the system by establishing about 1,600 independent municipal police forces in all cities and towns with population of over 5,000 smaller communities. These were served by the newly created National Rural Police. General contol of the police was supposed to be ensured by the establishment of civilian public safety commissions.
As to present structure, today the Japanese police system is based on prefectural units that are autonomous in daily operations yet are linked nationalwide under the National Police Agency. Prefectural police headquarters, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, control everyday police operations in each prefecture. In effect, the prefectures pay for the patrol man on the beat, traffic control over domestic security units, which are funded by the national government, as are the salaries of senior national and prefectural police officials.
Prefectures are divided into districts, each with its own police station under direct control of prefectural police headquarters. There are about 1,250 of these police stations nationwide. Districts are further subdivided into jurisdictions of urban police boxes ( koban ) and rural residential police boxes ( chuzaisho).
The mainstay of the Japanese police system is the uniformed patrol officer (omawari san ). The patrol officers supply the police boxes and patrol cars and comprised 40 percent of al incidents and crimes and then move them to the specialized units for further investigation.
The sphere of police resposibilities remains broad. Besides solving ordinary crimes, criminal investigators establish the causes of fires and industrial accidents. Crime prevention police hold added responsibility for juveniles, businesses and the enforcement of “special laws” regulating gun and sword ownership, drugs, smuggling, prostitution, pornography and industrial pollution. Public safety commissions usually defer to police decisions.
Police contact with the community is extended by the requirement that koban based police visit every home in their jurisdiction to gather information, pass on suggestions regarding crime prevention and hear complaints. Neighbourhood crime prevention and traffic safety associations provide another link between police and community, further promoting extensive public involvement in law and order.