Chiba prefectural police, whose officers put off a stalking investigation for a trip to Hokkaido, finally admitted their failure to take appropriate action that could have prevented two related killings last year.
The National Public Safety Commission on April 23 gave a rare admonition to Satoshi Kamada, head of the Chiba prefectural police. Disciplinary measures were also imposed against 20 officers at the prefectural police department.
At a news conference, Kamada apologized to bereaved family members for the way Chiba police handled the case.
The case revolves around Gota Tsutsui, who is suspected of stalking a woman who was living in Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, and murdering her mother and grandmother in Nagasaki Prefecture in December.
The woman and her father, Makoto Yamashita, went to the Narashino Police Station on Dec. 6 to file a complaint against Tsutsui. They were asked to wait a week before submitting his request for an investigation.
Tsutsui showed up at the Narashino Police Station on Dec. 9, but he was not detained.
A number of officers from the police station later took the trip to Hokkaido from Dec. 8 to 10, including an officer who had met with the stalking victim a number of times and an officer who asked the victim to delay submitting a report about an assault for a week.
The report by Chiba prefectural police released on April 23 said if the two officers had not gone to Hokkaido, police could have taken more aggressive measures under the anti-stalking law to stop the murders.
"If every effort had been made by the entire police station, it is possible that the results could have been prevented," the report said.
An initial investigation by Chiba prefectural police about its handling of the case did not mention the trip taken by the Narashino police officers.
Police officials on April 23 admitted that the failure to include the trip in the initial report showed that investigators underestimated the effects of the trip on the stalking investigation and lacked a perspective of the general public.
Kamada admitted that the initial investigation and its failure to mention the Hokkaido trip showed that police were not thinking about the matter from the standpoint of the general public.
Bereaved family members were not satisfied with the latest report.
In a statement released through his lawyer, Yamashita noted that Kamada chose to send subordinates to Nagasaki Prefecture to apologize rather than make the trip himself.
"If this was a private-sector company, the normal course would have been for the top official to visit the victims," the statement said. "I feel there’s a gap with the sentiment of the public."
Other family members criticized the fact that no outsiders were included in the investigative committee looking into how Chiba prefectural police handled the matter.
Masaru Wakasa, a prosecutor-turned-lawyer, said the failure of Chiba prefectural police to initially look into how the Hokkaido trip affected the investigation would only heighten concerns about whether the police were professional enough to conduct a thorough investigation.
Journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, who covered another stalking case in 1999 that resulted in the murder of a college student, said, "The biggest problem is that no one in the prefectural police department recognized the urgency of the matter."
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