Japanese Police Chief PunishedAP , Associated Press
Mar. 2, 2000 12:46 PM ET
TOKYO (AP) _ Japan's top law enforcement officer was punished Thursday with a one month pay cut following public outrage over police bungling in the case of a woman who was abducted and held hostage for nine years.
National Police Agency chief Setsuo Tanaka's 5 percent pay cut was the first ever punishment for Japan's top police official.
``We want to do the utmost to regain the public's trust,'' Tanaka said at a news conference broadcast by Japan's public NHK television.
The pay cut follows revelations that police may have been able to free 19-year-old Fusako Sano years ago if they had not ignored requests for help from her suspected abductor's mother.
Sano was 9 when Nobuyuki Sato, now 37, allegedly kidnapped her in northern Niigata Prefecture and held her hostage in his bedroom for nearly a decade.
When Sano was finally freed, police faked a press release to take credit for liberating her when in fact hospital workers took her into custody after visiting Sato's home.
The Public Safety Commission, which supervises the National Police Agency, reprimanded Tanaka for failing to properly supervise an NPA bureau chief who was sent to inspect the Niigata police force.
After a cursory inspection of the department, the NPA's Yoshiaki Nakada accompanied Niigata police chief Koji Kobayashi to a hot spring, where they drank and played mahjong.
When they learned Sano had been rescued, the officials chose to stay at the resort rather than return to the department to supervise the investigation. Nakada and Kobayashi resigned Tuesday.
The incident and other recent police scandals have shaken public trust in the police and prompted Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to criticize the nation's police force.
``I strongly hope again that police will keenly feel remorse about the issue and that their whole organization will make literally desperate efforts to restore the people's trust,'' Obuchi was quoted as saying Thursday by Kyodo News.
Tanaka's predecessor, Yuko Sekiguchi, resigned in January over allegations that senior police in Kanagawa, south of Tokyo, covered up drug abuse by an officer and failed to prevent sexual harassment and bullying in their force.