The US And Japanese Police Systems: A Comparison Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Crime, Police, Japan, Law, System, Criminal Justice, Organization, Community

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/01/07


Law enforcement is an essential component of civilized society because they ensure that society exists under an environment of peace and order. However, every country has its own policing structure and strategy. This essay compares the United States policing system and the Japanese policing system and shows that although there are similarities, especially in theory, the two systems are vastly different because of the underlying legal and traditional structures. The comparison is based on three factors: history, current practices, and nature and structure.


The history of American policing is rooted in the English model. During colonial times, watch groups took care of peace and order of their neighborhood. Slave patrols also existed. When Sir Robert Peel established modern policing in 1829 in England, his reforms were adopted in the US. Police departments were created in cities starting in 1845. The earliest period of US modern policing was characterized by its close association with politics, but reforms were made in the early 20th century until the 1970s (Archbold 2013, pp. 2-11). Like the US, the Japanese police system was also modeled heavily after European models. The first modern police system was established in 1872 - two years after the Japanese government sent a Japanese general to Europe to observe its police systems. The modernization created organization the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department placed under the Ministry of Interior (NPA 2014).

Current Practices

Because of its British roots particularly Sir Robert Peel’s nine guiding principles, American policing is guided by professionalism and accountability. Reforms, especially in the 20th century, reinforced the rule of due process. Police operations are also limited by the Constitutional Amendments, which guarantee the rights of citizens against government abuse. Notwithstanding, there are still wayward police officers. US policing is currently geared towards community policing, which require the police to establish contact and rapport with the community (Chamblis pp. 1, 7-9). In Japan, the police are closer to the community than the US police because of its patrol methodology. Local police man boxes or koban, which are placed in every neighborhood, and also conduct patrol by foot or bicycle. Twice in every year, police visit every house in the community for residential surveys (Foote 1992, p. 332). Although the Japanese Constitution guarantees protection for individual rights law enforcement practices are still tied to the traditional system. Police employ methods considered unlawful in Western jurisdictions, such as slapping, beating and other forms of torture just to get a confession (Soldwedel 2008, pp 1433-1436).

Nature and Structure

The US has a completely decentralized police system with no national police. Police organizations exist on the federal level and on the state level with each completely independent of each other with jurisdiction and territory as the separating factor. Altogether, the US has about 500,000 police officers, in addition to separate police forces (Varghese 2010, p. 6). Japan, on the other hand, has a semi-centralized or dual control police system (Tibasana p. 184). It has a national police organization and the prefectural police organizations. The former is administered by the National Public Safety Commission or NPSC, with the NPA as the chief national police organization. On the other hand, the Prefectural Public Safety Commission of each prefecture administers prefectural police organizations within its jurisdiction. As of 2013, the total number of NPA personnel is 7,700 and the prefectural police is 285,400. Despite the two-level police system, the NPA has certain and specific supervisory rights over prefectural police (NPA 2014).


There are similarities between US and Japan policing because both are based on Western models. However, the Japanese model is tied to the traditional system despite a legal structure that gives opposing mandate. The US police, on the other hand, is constrained by Constitutional amendments and other regulatory issues that forces the police to toe the line. Thus, while Japanese police commits abuse against civil rights because it is accepted by custom and tradition, US police commit abuses because of intentional violation of the law.


Archbold, C. (2013). Policing. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Chamblis, W. (2011). Police and Law Enforcement. SAGE.
Foote, D. (1992). The Benevolent Paternalism of Japanese Criminal Justice. California Law Review, vol. 80:317.
NPA (2014). Police of Japan 2014.
Soldwedel, A. (2008). Testing Japan’s Convictions: The Lay Judge System and the Rights of Criminal Defendants. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, vol. 41:1417
Tibasana, L., Matias, M., Sandhu, M., and Bonilla, R. (2001). Effective Administration of the Police System. 120th International Senior Seminar Reports of the Course. Resource Material Series No. 60.
Varghese, J. (2010). Police Structure: A Comparative Study of Policing Models. Social Science Research Network.

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