Police oversight in Japan

I love Japan, but there are a few things which I really hate about it. The police are one big issue in my mind.

Case in point: Their recent knife kick. I read an outrageous story on Debito’s blog about a 74-year-old American tourist getting arrested for carrying a pocketknife over the maximum legal length (which was recently shortened). It seemed unbelievable until a commenter there pointed out a similar fate for a Japanese manga artist, and then our own commenter Durf shared a story about getting searched for knives.

Fortunately, my few run-ins with the Japanese police have been tame. I’ve been carded a couple of times while biking around central Tokyo, and once got into a spat with a cab driver late at night which the local koban cop helpfully mediated without even checking my papers. Still, reading others’ experiences makes me believe that police here, while helpful when they want to be helpful, also have an undue amount of power and very little responsibility for misusing it.

On paper, this is not how it should be. On paper, there are officials who oversee the police, both on a national level (through the National Public Safety Commission) and on a local level (through prefectural public safety commissions). They are appointed by elected officials (the prefectural governor/assembly or the Cabinet) and serve fixed terms.

But these are woefully ineffectual bodies plagued by systemic problems, as laid out by Japanese Wikipedians:

  1. Each commission is located on the premises of the prefectural police headquarters and police officers perform its clerical functions, so there is no guarantee of neutrality or confidentiality.
  2. The prefectural government has no authority vis-a-vis the police, so there is no way for local government to investigate or punish the police without going through the commission.
  3. The commissions are often packed with local elites who have little experience or interest in police or criminal justice matters.
  4. This often creates a conflict of interest, because such individuals won’t want to effectively challenge the local police in many instances.
  5. The police end up being taken more seriously and can effectively dictate policy to the commissions. This happens on a local level as well as a national level (between the NPA and NPSC).

For illustrative purposes, the NPSC currently consists of the following individuals:

  • Motoo Hayashi (chairman): LDP legislator and state minister in the Aso cabinet (for disaster prevention, Okinawa and Northern Territories policy, and possibly other irrelevant portfolios as well)
  • Yukio Sato: Former diplomat and president of the Japan Institute for International Affairs
  • Nobuyuki Yoshida: Senior director of the Sankei Shimbun, responsible for its right-wing editorials
  • Yoshiyuki Kasai: Chairman of JR Central
  • Mariko Hasegawa: Professor in the School of Advanced Sciences at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies who apparently specializes in sociobiology and has a strong academic interest in the biology of sexuality
  • Kenjiro Tao: Chief judge of the Hiroshima High Court (an intermediate appellate court), somewhat famous for handing down the verdict against serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki.

62 thoughts on “Police oversight in Japan

  1. The police can, essentially, do whatever they want regardless of what the law says they can and cannot do. This is part of the wishy-washy nature of Japanese society. Power is defined as vaguely as possible whenever possible in order to give those with authority the maximum flexibility to do whatever they want. In some cases, this means writing laws that can be interpreted in multiple ways. In others, they just ignore what is on paper when it suits time. In still others, they manage it by writing two contradictory laws so that the police can use whichever one suits their whims.

    A case in point of the latter is the way bicycle riding city laws are sometimes written. They say that you can’t ride on the sidewalk in one law and that you can’t ride on the street in another. That allows the police to call you out regardless of where you ride a bike.

    The situation with the police hasn’t been an issue up until the last few years when they seem to be abusing their power and the rights of both Japanese and foreign people (with a heavier focus on the foreigners). I’ve read many blogs (Ghost Letters is the most recent) where men have been searched. My husband has taught a lot of students who also have been searched for knives. This violation of the right to privacy is bad on its face, but it’s worse because it is utterly ineffective in dealing with the random stabbings that are becoming more common in Japan. I strongly believe these random searches are all about the appearance of solving the problem rather than actually addressing it.

  2. Hasegawa Mariko is also studying criminal recrod of youth crime in Japan and has theory that the criminal rate is dropping significantly in recent years.I asked her to do the leture once back in 2004 when there were many public discussion on youth crimes.She is a politically liberal.So is Sato Yukio.

    “I read an outrageous story on Debito’s blog about a 74-year-old American tourist getting arrested for carrying a pocketknife over the maximum legal length (which was recently shortened). ”

    I’m still wondering the validity of information since so far only Japan Times is reporting and nowhere else.Even JT article is based on the tourist and his son’s allegation.Usually the cops check the foreigners status in Japan and passoport to find out how did he or she entered in the country.In this process,the info will go to the either the embassy or consulate.No embassy in the world would stay silent for having their citizen being locked up for not-so-clear reason for ten days,especially the U.S.

  3. “I strongly believe these random searches are all about the appearance of solving the problem rather than actually addressing it.”

    All actions by authorities are designed to bolster their power. It is more effective to do that by making people think you are doing something than by actually doing something. I go beyond “strongly believe” and into “dead certain.”

    “No embassy in the world would stay silent for having their citizen being locked up for not-so-clear reason for ten days,especially the U.S.”

    I wonder…. Embassies are there to further the interests of the country, not its citizens, about which they could only care less with intensive training. And the more important the country and the location of the embassy, the less helpful they are, I would imagine….

    Yes, I’m in a very cynical mood tonight….

  4. Could somebody provide a link to the Japanese laws that ban riding bicycles on both the sidewalk and the street?

  5. Orchid, that’s not quite accurate, see comment below.

    James, no where else but Mutantfrog would you have people like Joe and I on hand to clarify! The amended subsections inserted to article 63 of the Traffic Safety Law 道路交通法 provide the rules for bicycles. Local ordinances (条例) can be passed to insert additional rules applicable in their jurisdiction, but they cannot violate the provisions of the law.
    http://www.houko.com/00/01/S35/105.HTM#s3.13

    Article 63,3: If there are bicycle roads for bicycles in the road, bicycles must use those bicycle roads, excluding cases were there are unavoidable circumstances because of traffic conditions or other circumstances. (i.e., in such avoidable circumstances, they can use the entire road, regardless.)

    Article 63,4: Bicycles can use sidewalks. However, police can instruct otherwise, except where road signs permit bicycles to be on such roads, or when the bicycle is carrying children, etc.

    Article 63,6: Bicycles must cross roads using marked bicycle crossing areas.

    Article 63,7: Same goes for crossing roads where there are traffic lights.

  6. Ah, Curzon, leave it to you to bring facts into a discussion. ;-)

    It is worth noting that Kyoto City has signs in some areas (Kawaramachi Dori between Sanjo Dori and Shijo Dori comes to mind) specifically banning bicycles from being ridden on the sidewalk. It is legal to push a bike on the sidewalk, but good luck with that on most days. The cops also don’t like you riding in the street in that area, and will try to direct bikes onto the sidewalk. There really is no shoulder for bikes to ride on, and what space there is to the sides of the traffic lane is usually filled with stopped cars and trucks.

    I once was confronted with two cops, obviously partners, standing on a corner, with the one on the sidewalk yelling at bicyclists to get into the road and the other one standing on the street yelling at bicyclists to get on the sidewalk. Being a smart-ass and seeing a chance too good to pass up, I asked the one on the sidewalk in a loud voice (so his partner could hear) “事前に相棒と話し合った?”

    No result except for them to glance at each other and keep going as they were.

  7. Ace, you’re simply wrong to say that “No embassy in the world would stay silent for having their citizen being locked up for not-so-clear reason for ten days,especially the U.S.” Embassies don’t give a second thought to their citizens locked up in Japan unless they are made to care by family and public pressure. The “concern” issued during the Savoie case was because the matter was on CNN and a congressman was screaming about it. In what I’ve seen, when family and relatives consult an embassy regarding a friend or relative, embassy workers direct you to a list of lawyers who speak crappy English and tell you to stop breaking the law.

  8. Yeah,but the point is when cops bust a foreigner,they contact immigration to get the date of the entry and the immigration(or police)will contact the embassy.
    So far neither embassy nor police decline to comment on this case and the whole news is solely based on the allegation of the guy’s son.Meaning there’s no back up facts nor evidence to support the information.

  9. That particular case with the knife, while in principle it’s believable, just doesn’t seem to have been true. If it had actually happened, wouldn’t there be a statement from his family back home, a police report, or something? Of course, it’s also possible that noone has done any actual reporting and all of the evidence exists, just not in the media

    @LB: The Kawaramachi Sanjo/Shijo area is weird. By the letter, you’re not supposed to ride your bike there on the street OR sidewalk, but luckily the police are only rarely there to hassle people about it. The last time they yelled at me was probably a good year ago.

  10. @Roy – true, that is the letter of the law, but what struck me as so odd were two cops standing right next to each other giving completely contradictory orders to bicyclists. Not a “you can’t ride a bike here, get off and walk” (which would have been the correct command), but one telling people it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk and so they should get in the road, and his partner telling people it is illegal to ride in the road and so they should get on the sidewalk. Literally Tweedles Dumb and Dumber directing bicycle traffic.

  11. “Can you ride with one wheel on the footpath and one on the road?”

    Only on the third Sunday after a full moon.

    And you must be wearing a red, white and blue jumpsuit, cape and helmet.

  12. Aceface, you’re sounding unreasonable here. I’ll be the first to trash the Japan Times, but they have police confirming the story to the Japan Times:

    “One Shinjuku Police Station officer involved in turning the tourist over to prosecutors told The Japan Times the arresting officer’s official crime report noted the blade was 8.6 cm long.

    But the tourist’s son, who later responded to an inquiry from The Japan Times, claimed the blade’s cutting edge was only 5 cm long, although it had an additional serrated edge that, he argued, cannot slash anything.”

    I welcome any evidence that counters this, but if all you have is doubt, I’m just not impressed.

  13. I actually read the JT article since I was informed via Twitter by Joe.Plus the fuss between Brian Hedge and Debito over his blog via Mulboyne’s tweet.
    My first impression of JT article was it was written pretty awfully(I’m still confused whether the period of detention was either 10 nights or 10 days.)
    And my impression to Brian Hedge was.if that was his attitude to some one trying to help him out,what would it be to someone whose against him?

    Curzon and LB.You’re right about being suspicious of my response since I’ve said some stupid thing in the past several days over whether Japanese medical service to the disabled children is sufficient and I made rather insensitive comment just because I live next door to the school of disabled.

    Having said that,the JT article is mostly based on the accused,his family member,his lawyer,and some other lawyer.The cop only cofirmed the fact of arrest and the reason of arrest and that’s it.All the other informations that constructs the article are based on the information given from basically one source,the accused that is.

    Now I was pretty critical of CNN・Channel Five report over Chris Savoie,but at least they presented all of what JT article had presented,plus the court record of the state of Tennessee.

    Considering the nature of events,I understand it is difficult to get comments from police,prosecutor,embassy nor bystander who had witnessed the scene of arrest.
    But since that is the case,normally,journalist would only use this particular case either the fact you can confirm,which is he is being arrested for having a knife,or chose to water down by presenting with more additional cases just like Joe did in the original post thus the narrative wouldn’t entirely rely on this particular case.

  14. I was actually looking at some rather cool pocket knives in an antique store the other day and thinking of getting one, but unfortunately when I measured they all had blades of 5.5cm or longer, so I decided it just wouldn’t be worth buying a pocketknife I can’t keep in my pocket without risking arrest.

  15. Yeah well, you can piss and groan about the JP police all you like… or you can move to Australia where they throw a packet of marijuana into your back seat if they don’t like your attitude, or just bust you for breach of the peace if you dare raise your voice above a cowardly murmur. The JP police are EXCELLENT compared to most other countries.

  16. Hidflect, this is all very well, but does your argument extend to forced confessions ?

    Are you aware that here, you can be suddenly arrested for no reason,
    questioned and deprived of sleep for 21 days till you “confess” and then
    be fitted up with a crime that you never committed ?
    It is the most unjust and absurd judicial system in the world,
    and not subject to international scrutity or pressure.

    The JP police, folks, in a capsule review, are a PIECE OF SHIT compared to nearly all other countries.

    Am I wrong ?

  17. Alan: I MIGHT be with you if you said the Japanese police were bad compared to nearly all other developed countries or democracies, but all other countries? Come on. As flawed as Japan’s system of justice may be, I’d still rather be arrested here than anywhere in Africa, almost anyplace else in Asia, and most countries in Latin America.

  18. “It is the most unjust and absurd judicial system in the world…Am I wrong ?”

    Yes, you are wrong. Such absurdly stupid exaggerations don’t exactly help your case.

  19. Yes Great Example of “Doctor Stop” swimming in the imperial pond.

    gave all those cops something to do for once.

    James – yes, excuse the hyperbole. But still, a lot of their practices
    are thoroughly indefensible.

    And No, I wouldn’t want to be arrested in Liberia or China for that matter,
    but I’m shit scared of getting on the wrong side of the law here because
    I feel I won’t be given fair treatment, and that decent humane judicial practices
    will govern the outcome of my life, and in that sense, getting arrested in Japan is
    as bad as anywhere else.

  20. Just to add my previous post – in 1999 when living in Sapporo,
    some friends and I called the police to a Karaoke in suskino
    where we had been monstrously overcharged.
    whether the police were in cahoots with the owners, who knows,
    but the only action that was taken was to gaijin card all of us.
    I didn’t have mine on me at the time and was driven back to my house
    and then to the cop shop to write a confession saying I had done wrong
    and would never do it again etc. all the time treated like a serious criminal.

    aside from this I have been gaijin carded walking around in Tokyo minding
    my own business, stopped on my bike.

    I suppose this is what it is like riding while black in many white countries,
    but still I keep my distance from the police here because once they suck you in
    there’s not a lot you can to do to get out, and you are at the whim of the
    Japanese justice system.

  21. My deepest sympathy for you being overcharged in a karaoke bar and get gaijin carded along with your friend all jut in one night in Sapporo.Alan.

    Still, if my fading memory of watching “Malcom X” and “Mississippi Burning”many many moons ago is still accurate,”what it is like riding while black in white country”was a bit more tough experience.But then again,those could be yet another Hollywood fabrication….

  22. “I suppose this is what it is like riding while black in many white countries”

    Not…. Even…. Close. Stop now, you’re starting to sound like another white boy from Sapporo who still can’t get over the fact that the minorities who make up 99.9% of the population dare to speak back to him.

  23. God I hope not…that’s the last thing I would want to sound like.
    Have you really met people like that ?

  24. It’s all too easy for Americans in Japan – or white Americans at least – to experience discrimination, and then immediately associate it with the sort of discrimination they are at once most aware of and yet have never actually experienced. The two are not the same – and while you might be able to get away with some comparisons to the current status quo, once you start talking historically you sound, as LB notes, like a deadbeat.

    “I know what it feels like to be raped – some chick just grabbed my ass!”

  25. Not really a fan of the fuzz anywhere frankly.

    Two important factors in the last few years –
    One – Keitai cameras and the like have spread awareness of just how badly the police treat people all over. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/30/top-5-police-brutality-vi_n_115921.html

    Two – Since 2001, police in most developed countries have used terror and social panic over rising crime rates to increase their powers. Cases in point – Joe’s knife example and the recent controversy over videotaping police officers in the US and the UK.

    Alan, give this a scan and see if you still think that Japan is an outlier – http://www.policebrutality.info/

    The lack of public complaint from Burakumin rights groups in Japan lately (big on this in the 60s and 70s) makes me think that the Japanese police, despite their right to detain, etc. hand out relatively few public ass kickings. I also work in a relatively tight community where news travels fast. I’ve never heard about an academic getting sidewalked slammed by Japanese police but there is this famous incident in Atlanta in 2007-

    http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/33779.html

    and I know of a few other stories including an acquaintance of mine from the Middle East who was faceplanted by the police near a campus where he was an invited speaker. He was walking near some kind of protest but is seriously like 100 pounds soaking wet.

    It isn’t a zero sum game, however. Just because Japan doesn’t seem this bad to me doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of room for improvement.

  26. Yeah. And while we’re on it, those who suffered under apartheid should stop moaning as at least they weren’t born in Gaza. They don’t even know they’ve been born, fecking ingrates.

  27. Thanks for that. Sounds like he handled it very well, thanks to positive mental attitude. No fun though. Any links to time in Japanese jail apart from the Nick Baker website ?

  28. I was in Shibuya the other day (actually, just before I met Joe and Curzon) and I had a chance to see the Tokyo police in action. Some girl was complaining about a guy (her boyfriend?) harrassing her. The police chased after the guy, but he just flipped open his mobile phone and ignored them while walking away. They tried to block his path but he just walked around them, ignoring them all the time. In the end they just gave up and bowed to the guy before going about the rest of their business.

    Vicious.

  29. Forgive the repetition, but here’s something I wrote when the same questions came up elsewhere.

    The role of the police is changing in Japan and it reminds me a good deal of the major changes brought on in Britain by the Operation Countryman investigation nearly 30 years ago. The Japanese police force, like the British force of old, used to be seen as unquestioned authority figures. They are losing this status now as the UK police did. Ironically, just as police became more accountable, popular culture in the West began to celebrate “maverick” policemen who “broke the rules” which points up the dilemma society faces. We want ineffective or corrupt police to be reined in by checks and balances so we can be certain that we are not wrongly accused but we also want good officers to be given a free hand, unconstrained by red tape, so they can follow their instincts and bring down the bad guys. It just isn’t possible to have both so we always have to consider which balance works best.

    There are many social factors which led to a public loss of trust in the police in the UK but many of them only began to surface in Japan once the bubble burst. The police have drawn criticism in a several cases where they have pursued the wrong suspects, withheld evidence or fabricated evidence, failed to respond to appeals for help with fatal consequences etc etc. There have also been numerous examples of police slush funds which have been fraudulently acquired. Importantly, these cases have been reported by the mainstream media which might have overlooked them before. On 2ch, there was dissatisfaction when police began targeting otaku types because some were carrying knives to ward off attackers who had come to see them as easy prey for a mugging. Information quickly circulated about what rights individuals had and this led to an increase in people standing up to the police.

    Random interrogations on the street are one way the police can develop a lead to make an arrest or else prevent a crime. The technique relies on the interviewee being awed into compliance. In another age, the police would have encountered someone on the street, asked him questions and he would have replied in an instant. They then would have told him to clear off or left him alone, probably making a note of his name in either case. These days you can find numerous video clips where someone doesn’t respond as the police wish and they react with increased suspicion and antagonism at what they see as a lack of respect. They can’t however, do anything. The Yomiuri reported that one “ore ore” bank transfer scam artist was found to have a manual called “Countermeasures for Police Questioning”.

    It’s no easy thing to regain trust when it has been lost as the police found out in the UK where they still haven’t recovered the respected status they once had. In the immediate term, the police in Japan need to explain their policing methods more clearly to the public to win back their cooperation. It may well be that they have to rethink the old ways of doing things if they are too antagonistic. I would imagine there are many areas of modern policing which have not been developed in Japan and it may be that these need to be introduced to make up for restrictions elsewhere. For instance, we know there is a shortage of pathologists which means post mortems are conducted less often than we would expect in the west. If the police force is like any other bureaucracy in Japan, there is probably inadequate IT infrastructure, inadequate training and an unhealthy working culture which all would need addressing without destroying the morale of individual officers.

    The police aren’t the only voice of authority to be question in Japan in recent years. Doctors are being sued for malpractice and patients seem more prepared to consider seeking a second opinion. Educators are also in the spotlight with questions about bribes and rigged exams at universities and teachers brought to account for inappropriate or violent conduct. It’s not all one-way traffic though. There is just as much coverage of “monster parents” who make unreasonable demands on teachers as there is of a high school baseball coach who makes his charges run around a field naked in winter to “build character”. What such examples show is a society trying to work out what the new unwritten rules are. The risk is of a lurch to some extreme which could happen if the police are brought to account, crime rises and the population decides to hand them sweeping powers to deal with it.

  30. ”erm thanks for the essay Mulboyne.
    What was your point exactly ?”

    There are quite a few dicks hanging around this blog lately, aren’t there?

    “The police aren’t the only voice of authority to be question in Japan in recent years.”

    Yes, NHK springs to mind. After the corruption and comfort woman scandals, you had mass-non-payment of NHK levies.

  31. “The lack of public complaint from Burakumin rights groups in Japan lately ”

    Also these people have gained a lot of what they fought for so wouldn’t be making as much fuss as previously. So it’s not just about the shitkicking.

    “this famous incident in Atlanta in 2007”

    Yeah, read about that one back in the day. Damn, you get a bunch of historians together and all hell breaks loose…

  32. Egg Child Says:

    October 26th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Comment removed by moderator.

    “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx”

    No !

  33. Excellent comment Mulboyne. The only thing that I think I can add is a comment about this being the second of two cycles in the postwar period.

    The late 1950s saw a number of things that we haven’t seen since – protests in the 100,000s being one of them. At that time, there was also a considerable effort by police to increase their power in the relatively young postwar order by dramatically increasing their mandate/power to do random stops (職務質問). There was very heavy popular resistance against this. Interestingly, at around the same time, there was another incident that saw some young Jieitai recruits die after a lengthy forced march. The almost new Jieitai got slammed and there was a real effort to remove the emphasis on “spirit” for a while.

    So what we are seeing now is a second broad attempt in the postwar period for the police to expand powers. This time, however, they seem to have a great deal of support from the remains of the mass middle class who are quite fearful of the young. I also see more organization and political engagement on the part of youth since 2000 (and especially from 2008 relating to employment) so there may be a push back against bag searches and the like coming.

  34. The GWOT gave a lot of governments and police forces the excuse they needed to toughen up policing, often unnecessarily, and the new laws are often abused.

    I have personally noticed the difference. I’ve been visiting Japan about twice a year for 15 years. I have never been stopped by the police. I’m a middle-class, middle-aged, middle-management white guy and I look it, very boring, smart casual dress, etc.

    On both visits so far this year I have been stopped and questioned at Narita Airport Arrivals while waiting for the limousine bus to arrive.

    I’m not going to say that Japan is worse than the UK. Obviously I stand out more in Japan than at home. Though considering the highest concentration of gaijin in the whole of Japan must be at Narita Airport, it makes you wonder.

    Maybe they are trying to fill a quota for number of suspects questioned and pick me because I look respectable and unthreatening.

  35. “Maybe they are trying to fill a quota for number of suspects questioned and pick me because I look respectable and unthreatening.”

    I would lay very good money on that being the case. Next time trying shaving your head and wearing a beat-up leather jacket.

    You really do have to admire Osama bin Laden. He has changed the world. I was pissed off when Time elected to bow to popular sentiment and not choose him as Man of the Year in 2001, despite the fact he clearly was more important than Rudy, simply as the sheeple thought Man of the Year was some sort of honour. He should be Man of the Decade at least, as what he did had echoed around the world to an extent that even he may not have expected. We are now timorous cowering little beasties looking to our (political) masters to protect us, and willing to bow down and take whatever they shove up.

  36. “Maybe they are trying to fill a quota”

    There are always arrest & conviction quotas. As some of these numbers have slipped, the Japanese police have in one way acted exactly the same as their British counterparts when they faced the same problem: enforced traffic laws more strictly and pressed for new laws in the name of safety. In both countries, that meant higher penalties for drink driving followed by a crackdown. The UK also focused on speeding which Japan is currently considering. Cycling is more common here, so they also introduced stricter cycling laws. They were forced to back down on some when the mothers complained. If you send a certain percentage of your force out, you are bound to find a decent number of infringements. More importantly, except in some curious cases, normally involving a chain of evidence problem, anyone arrested will be convicted.

  37. “enforced traffic laws more strictly”

    Same where I come from. And for the same reason Milner gets picked on – your average family man doing ten over the limit isn’t likely to be packing heat and inclined to do for the copper. Plus where I used to live in Japan I saw a lot of mini-pato cars cruising for illegally parked vehicles in my quiet residential suburb with roads just wide enough to be tempting. Easy targets.

  38. I was looking at Swiss Army/Leatherman-style knives in Tokyu Hands one day and I made it clear to the salesman that I wanted one that was under the legal length limit. He told me not to carry a knife around even if it is short enough to be legal, citing personal knowledge of people who were arrested for carrying legal knives. Bottom line: The cops will do what they want, regardless of the details of the law.

  39. To go on a slight tangent, in high school I carried around a utility type knife since I did stage crew and other activities for which it was pretty useful, but with the zero tolerance policies that schools have introduced following Columbine and then the further security emphasis since 9/11, I might have gotten in serious trouble at some point.

  40. The crazy thing about knife rules like these is that they leave so much up to the discretion of the cops, without clear guidelines on what is an appropriate tool, versus a weapon. Is a carpenter or sushi chef who likes to carry his tools around going to jail? No, but it’s purely discretionary.

  41. “Is a carpenter or sushi chef who likes to carry his tools around going to jail? No, but it’s purely discretionary.”

    Although since these are demonstrably tools of the trade required for a specific purpose, it is allowed. If you were off fishing, and looked like it, you’d be allowed a knife. That still does not excuse the stupidity of cops for not profiling people properly.

  42. A swiss army knife in which the blade doesn’t lock in an open position really should never be considered a weapon. You’re far more likely to cut your own fingers than to actually injure your opponent with it.

  43. “A swiss army knife in which the blade doesn’t lock in an open position really should never be considered a weapon.”

    If I was in a really serious fight, I’d actually rather use a key.

  44. You could get a giant novelty size Swiss army knife, remove the knife part to make it legal, and club someone to death with it.

  45. Or you could just buy a club….
    What I would like is one of those novelty hammers Beat Takeshi likes, but fill it with sand or something to make it a heavy club….

  46. “Or you could just buy a club….”

    That would make it wanton violence instead of a Monty Python sketch.

  47. ““enforced traffic laws more strictly”

    Same where I come from.”

    Yes, but now people stick to the speed limit, don’t they?

  48. “You could get a giant novelty size Swiss army knife, remove the knife part to make it legal, and club someone to death with it.”

    That would be funny! Carry around a HUGE Swiss army-style knife, but with the blade removed. Then watch the cops get disappointed when they try to bust you for carrying it. For bonus points, insert something else instead of the knife, like a rolled-up copy of the law on warrantless searches.

  49. ”Yes, but now people stick to the speed limit, don’t they?”

    It’s not doing ten over the limit that is dangerous, it’s doing 50 or more over. Cracking down on people doing ten over is cracking down on people who aren’t likely to be serious hooners. And it distracts from more real dangers that aren’t as easily quantifiable.

  50. “You could get a giant novelty size Swiss army knife, remove the knife part to make it legal, and club someone to death with it.”

    The only alternative would be to have a bag filled with hundreds of tiny Swiss Army knives which you could use to baffle the police (or beat someone to death).

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