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Hi Blog. Hokay, let’s go over this issue one more time on Debito.org (the previous times from here): the ability of J-cops to racially profile and subject any “foreigner” to arbitrary Gaijin Card ID-checks. I offered advice about what to do about it (print and carry the actual laws around with you and have them enforced).
Last time I talked about this (in my Japan Times column last April), I noted how laws had changed with the abolition of the Foreign Registry Law, but the ability for cops to arbitrarily stop NJ has actually continued unabated. In fact, it’s expanded to bag searches and frisking, with or without your permission (because, after all, NJ might be carrying knives or drugs, not just expired visas).
Well, as if doubting the years of research that went into this article (and affirmed by Japanese Administrative Solicitor Higuchi Akira in our book HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS), the JT put up a “featured comment” saying that my article was wrong and a source for misinformation:
I’m sorry, but the information in this article and on the website describing the powers of the police to stop foreigners and demand passports or residence cards for any reason ‘whenever’ is inaccurate. The law does not give the police in Japan arbitrary powers to conduct suspicionless questioning.
As specified in Article 23 of the ‘Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act’ (see below), a police officer may demand to see a passport or residence card if it is in the execution of his/her duties, in other words only when s/he is doing what s/he is empowered to do by the ‘Police Duties Execution Act’ or other relevant acts.
The main duties of the police are specified in the ‘The Police Duties Execution Act’ (see below). The duties of the police are of course very wide ranging but they are not unlimited. In a nutshell, the police may question someone if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime or the person may have information about a crime.
Also, the police must offer assistance if they believe that the person is a danger to themselves or others (this is why the police may stop someone when they are riding a bicycle without a light at night even though the police may have other motives for the stop).
They may also stop you if they believe you might be a victim of a crime (As when they stop you on your bicycle and ask if you have registered it in light of all the thefts in the area) or if your acts may endanger anyone with a view to preventing any crime from occurring. The police also have additional duties imposed on them by other laws. For example, executing warrants under the ‘Code of Criminal Procedure’ or issuing fines under the ‘Road Transportation Act’.
Therefore, the police in Japan are not legally permitted to randomly stop anyone whether Japanese or foreign and demand to see their passport or residence card. The reason for this is quite simple and obvious. If the police randomly stop someone, they cannot have reasonable grounds to suspect that any crime has been committed, whether that be overstaying a visa or any other crime.
There is no doubt that in practice police in every country may try to exceed their powers, but it is quite another thing to assert that the police actually have the right to do this. In may interest people to know that the laws imposed on the police in Japan with regards to questioning are actually more restrictive as compared with the US (ie. Stop and Frisk) or the UK (ie. CJPOA Section 60).
I would recommend that everyone read the law themselves and consult a Japanese attorney if they have questions about the law. I would also ask the Japan times to have this article reviewed by a Japanese attorney and corrections made where appropriate to avoid misinformation being spread.
(Article concludes with cited laws. See the bottom of the JT article at the top of the comments section.)
Well, I’m not a lawyer (I can just read the laws; but naturally that doesn’t count in the face of an anonymous commenter of unknown credentials), so the JT was probably just thinking it should cover its glutes. However, eventually the JT DID consult a lawyer and ran the following article — where it’s even worse than I argued:
The lawyer is essentially suggesting that you had better cooperate with the police because the laws will not protect you — especially if you’re in a “foreigner zone” of Tokyo like Roppongi. Excerpt:
Legal hurdles are high when it comes to seeking redress
Limits on ‘stop and frisk’ open to interpretation by Japan’s police and courts
BY AKIRA ISHIZUKA, The Japan Times, July 20, 2014
Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/07/20/how-tos/limits-stop-frisk-open-interpretation-japans-police-courts/
JT: In short, the police are permitted to:
1) stop a person for questioning, and, if they try to escape, to seize them (although the officers are not allowed to restrain or arrest them).
2) question them (although they have no obligation to answer these questions).
3) request (but not force) them to accompany the officers to a nearby police station or police box for the questioning.
[NB: ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE BEEN SAID ON DEBITO.ORG FOR YEARS NOW. CORRECTLY.]
4) frisk them with or without consent. (This is not written in the act, but precedents have established this. Basically, the frisking is limited to patting down over their clothing.)
Legal precedents in these cases have tended to stress the importance of balancing the public’s right to privacy with the necessity and urgency of the specific investigation and the public interest in preventing the crime the individual stopped by the police was suspected of being involved in. […]
Regarding the profiling, considering it was in Roppongi, which has a bit of a reputation for crime involving foreigners, the police officials could probably come up with a number of explanations for why they stopped [a NJ named P], such as a suspicion that he was carrying or selling drugs. It is unlikely that any judge would rule that this was a case of profiling and that the questioning was illegal.
As for the frisking, it was legal for the officers to pat P down over his clothes and bag, even without his consent. However, it would be illegal if an officer searched inside P’s pockets or clothing without consent or intentionally touched his genital area, even over his clothes. […]
So, in conclusion, what can you do if you are approached and questioned by police officers? Cooperating may be the smartest option and the fastest way to get the whole ordeal over as quickly as possible, but if you don’t feel like being cooperative, you can try asking the police officers what crime they are investigating and attempt to explain that you are not doing anything illegal, clearly express the will to leave and then do just that. Don’t touch the police officers, don’t run and don’t stop walking — and don’t forget to turn on the recorder on your smartphone in front of the officers, thus making it clear that you have evidence of any untoward behavior.
You cannot be forced to turn the recorder off, no matter what the police officers yell at you. Best of luck!
Akira Ishizuka is an attorney with the Foreigners and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (www.t-pblo.jp/fiss; 03-6809-6200). FISS lawyers address readers’ queries once a month. Questions: email@example.com
COMMENT: You know there’s something seriously wrong with a system when legally all you have is luck (and a cell phone recorder) to protect you from official arbitrary questioning, search, seizure, and racial profiling by Japanese cops. Even a lawyer says so. So that’s definitive, right?
Now, then, JT, what misinformation was being spread here by my previous article? How about trusting people who give their actual names, and have legal experience and a verified research record (several times before in past JT articles)? And how about deleting that misinformative “featured comment” to my column?
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