An Evening with Tokyo’s Finest
By CHOI JIWOONG
One Saturday afternoon on the 25th of April, Choi Jiwoong and two friends briefly step out of their dormitory and climb into a fenced basketball court in the neighbourhood to throw a ball around before dinner. They will not return home for another six hours, having been apprehended by an entire squadron of police officers for their heinous crimes against the sanctity of private property.
This newer iPhone’s actually more inconvenient than my old one, I complain to myself. I’m wriggling around to free my other arm. FaceID already doesn’t work half the time, and with all the mask business these days… Do I use my newly-liberated right hand to lower my mask or tap in my passcode? It’s kinda crowded in here. Better keep the mask on. Passcode. 8-8-8-8-8-8.
Enough about my phone. Back to the police car.
It’s real squeezy here in the backseat where I’m sandwiched between my buddy P██ and Yamada. Yamada’s not my buddy. He’s the cop who manhandled me into the car about ten minutes ago to take the two of us on a little ride back to visit his office. M██’s in the one behind us. Hope he’s doing okay. In the front are two more cops, separated from us with those grill dividers just like in the movies. Nervously eyeing Yamada, I type in “arrest” into my trusty translator app. 「逮捕」. Taiho.
I clear my throat, quietly. And then: 「あの…たいほですか？これは。」 (Uh, arrest? Is this?)
When we get off the car at Kitazawa Police Station, we are ceremoniously greeted with a trigger pointed squarely on our foreheads at point-blank.
Thankfully, it’s just the infrared thermometer.
What were they gonna do if I was running a fever— Drive me back home? Put me in the police sickbay? What do they have in the police sickbay, a little police car bed and a blanket with little piggies on it?
My fantasies of police and their police-related merch are not completely removed from reality. When we get to the investigation room on the fourth floor, our main handler is wearing a nice little police jacket. A nice little police, NYPD jacket. No mistaking it: N.Y.P.D., printed in yellow, stitched across the back of his handsome, navy blue jacket. A Tokyo police superior in the Kitazawa Police Station proudly strutting around and barking orders to his subordinate officers to harass twenty-year-olds in his dashing New York Police Department costume, possibly bought at one of the thrift shops in the neighborhood or even just the Gap in Harajuku. Who knows, maybe he was such a good cop that they sent him on a semester abroad in New York.
The cosplayer sizes us up. The three of us are to be put into three smaller rooms each for further questions. Uh oh.
The setting is far too familiar for my liking. White floor, white walls. Desk in the middle, with a fluorescent lightbulb that’s a little too bright dangling above. Two chairs on both sides. Images of good-cop-bad-cop routines, “What good is a phone call if you cannot speak?”s, and wicker chairs with the seat cut out flash past my eyes. My pockets are emptied, my necklace unchained, my jacket disrobed, all into an anonymous box. In the interest of self-preservation, I weather the barrage of questions with hais and nods, whatever superfluous facial expressions hidden thankfully behind my mask. After about an hour, I’m left alone in the room with another handler.
Sitting under the naked light, I meditate on my internalized hatred and fear of the police. Is it wrong of me to harbor such ill will against these people? Are they not also mere normal everyday folks doing their jobs? Keepers of the peace? Protector of the people? Guardians of society?
It takes me about five seconds to come up with the answers: no, no, no, no, and no. Anybody who signs up for a job that gives them the legal power to harass, assault, and detain another human being is straight-up just a weirdo and a bully.
Very poorly made individual career choices aside, police forces all around the world have their origins in some degree of racist tyranny. The policemen and women of the United States of America can trace their proud blue heritage right back to private runaway slave catcher squadrons in the Southern states. Our newly-made acquaintance Yamada-san and his colleagues can look upon the thought police of the 1925 Peace Preservation Law or the Kenpeitai, the colonial secret police force that terrorised my great-grandparents in Joseon Korea and my high school friends’ great-grandparents in Singapore with their ingenious torture methods and highly efficient genocides, as their trailblazing pioneers.
I never met my grandfathers. Both of them were long gone before my parents popped me into this world. But sitting on that dingy stool across from the Japanese cop staring right through my soul, I think hey, at least we have something to reminisce about together when we meet up in the afterworld now.
But let’s be real. We were three clueless brats breaking the law because we were bored. Fences are there for a reason. Gates are padlocked for a reason. And we were getting off for practically nothing, considering the fact that countless people across the Pacific Ocean in the greatest country on Earth have lost their dignity, their freedom, and their lives over, literally, nothing. Black people live their lives in constant fear, even behind the locked doors of their own homes.
A flawed system allows racist perverts to become state-sanctioned murderers on a payroll with just a few weeks of training. The American police force seems to be more of a white supremacist paramilitary terrorist orgnization than emissaries of the law. Talks of reforms, grand, theatrical displays of of policemen taking a knee in solidarity with protestors (only to leave a 75 year old man unconscious and bleeding from his head the next day at the same exact spot in Buffalo, New York), or even calls for more female police officers are nothing but PR performances that won’t change a single thing. The system has failed the people. Wait, no. Actually, it is working perfectly as it was designed to. So it’s about time they abolished the whole thing.
Two more hours of twiddling my thumbs, and the cosplayer reemerges for his curtain call. His American jacket, I observe after my solitary reflection, has taken on a much more sinister meaning. You’re free to go, he says. Go straight back home. They wouldn’t even give us a ride back. We walk. We take the wrong turn a couple of times. It takes us another hour before we’re back home.
* The opinions expressed in this article are of the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Komaba Times.