Japanese police in Oita are no longer barred from shopping at convenience stores in uniform

Uniformed cops who can do combination runs are intended to benefit both the police and the communities they serve.

It really cannot be overstated how important part of living in Japan is grocery stores are. In a country with a busy lifestyle, pronounced seasonal differences in weather, and cities designed primarily for walking, popping into the grocery store to buy a can of iced coffee, a bottle of hot tea, or a few Pokémon Poké Balls is almost a daily routine for many people.

Thus, in Japanese convenience stores, you will see shoppers both young and old, students, businessmen and retirees. What you couldn’t see in a grocery store, at least until now, were policemen, at least in Oita Prefecture. As part of their code of conduct, Oita Prefectural Police officers were prohibited from shopping at convenience stores in uniform. It was feared that citizens might mistakenly believe that they were abandoning their duties to browse goods in the shop instead, damaging the reputation of the police and instilling public confidence in them.

However, on November 29, the Oita Prefectural Police announced a relaxation of the policy and Officers can now shop uniforms at convenience stores as shown in the video below.

▼ Just a few weeks ago, an officer would have faced disciplinary action for doing so.

So why the change? Few reasons. First, the old policy was detrimental to operational efficiency. Should officers need something to eat or drink in the field, perhaps during an extended neighborhood patrol, they would first need to return to the station and pick up a jacket (one that does not identify them as police officers) to wear their uniforms, then return to the station to leave your jacket after shopping.

That’s a lot of wasted time that could have been better spent, especially when Oita’s statistics show an increase in crime in convenience stores. The prefecture says there have already been 8.2 percent more reports of shoplifting reported in Oita convenience stores in October alone than in the entirety of last year, and cases of e-money fraud in convenience stores appear to increase by 12.7 percent by the end of the year percent compared to 2021. Policy makers hope the new policy will give police a more noticeable presence in convenience stores and help reduce crime.

It should be noted that the number of reported cases of theft from convenience stores by October 2022 was only 66, compared to 77 e-money scams over the same period. It’s not the kind of crime wave you’d make an 80s-style action movie or a 90s beat-em-up arcade game about, but growth is still growth, and a vendor in Oita City 7-Eleven showed in the video He said “Having police officers shopping in uniform is reassuring and I think it will help prevent crime.” and online reactions have been largely positive, which many see as a common-sense rule change.

With the new rules, Oita becomes the 40th prefecture to allow cops to shop at convenience stores in uniform, leaving only seven lockdowns nationwide. Oita’s relaxed regulations include a stipulation that purchases are to be limited to essential items such as food, beverages and medicine, so uniformed officers are still barred from buying items such as cigarettes, beer and manga magazines.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun by Peasant! News from Japan by News from Itai
Top image: Pakutaso
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