Frazier to seek tips in Japan

April 19, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier will be one of four U.S. police chiefs leaving for a 10-day trip to Tokyo this week to study Japanese methods of community policing, a Washington-based foundation has announced.

Mr. Frazier and the other chiefs -- from Memphis, Tenn., Newark, N.J., and Little Rock, Ark. -- will visit the cities of Tokyo and Saitama and observe Japan's national, centralized police force.

Part of the trip's aim is to show the U.S. police officials the distinctive approaches the Japanese have to community policing, in which officers and their families live in mini-police stations called "kobans" and are trained not only in martial arts but in flower-arranging and tea ceremony.

Police officers in Japan -- where crime rates are much lower than in the United States -- use the household etiquette to demonstrate their sensitivity to family values.

Mr. Frazier and the others were selected for the trip because of their commitment to implementing community policing, said Vesta Kimble, a spokeswoman for the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation in Washington. All travel and accommodation expenses are paid by the foundation.

"Commissioner Frazier seems to be the perfect person [for the delegation,]" Ms. Kimble said. "He's open-minded to new ideas, and he seems willing to embrace change."

The delegation will leave Thursday, and Mr. Frazier will return to Baltimore May 1, said Sam Ringgold, the commissioner's spokesman.

Mr. Frazier said he will not be making the trip on vacation pay but will be paid as if he were on active duty. He said he is not concerned about leaving Baltimore in the hands of one of his deputy commissioners for 10 days.

Domestic etiquette

"This is a chance for us to see a unique approach to community policing. It's certainly in the spirit of what we're trying to do [in Baltimore,]" he said. "Japan has some interesting concepts, like the kobans and the idea of officers paying lower rent in the neighborhoods where they work."

A koban is essentially a mini-police station, usually no larger than one or two rooms, according to the Eisenhower foundation.

Japanese police officers assigned to the stations are required to study their neighborhoods in depth, learning the names of all families in their patrol area and to visit each home twice a year to hear residents' perceptions of community problems.

Mr. Frazier -- who came to Baltimore in January from the San Jose, Calif., Police Department -- has been an ardent supporter of community policing throughout his police career.

In all of his community lectures since he has come to Baltimore, he has spoken of his high hopes for implementing a successful program of that kind.

Community policing is a joint effort by police and citizens to solve crime problems. The crime-fighting strategy uses foot patrol officers and crime prevention programs to foster a close relationship between a police department and neighborhood residents.

Former Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods launched a community policing program in the city's Eastern District in 1992. Mr. Frazier said he hopes to spread the program to all districts.

While he is in Japan, Mr. Frazier will also visit Maryland's sister state in Japan, the Kanagawa Prefecture, as well as Baltimore's sister city, Kawasaki.

The news of his departure was not expected within his own department, but no one objected to his leaving.

"I don't really care where he goes," said Lt. Leander S. Nevin, president of the city police union. "He must have the mayor's OK to go, or he wouldn't be going. It's not unusual. People have been going on junkets for years."

The Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation is the private sector continuation of three bipartisan presidential commissions from the 1960s, the Katzenbach Crime Commission, the Kerner commission and the Eisenhower Violence Commission.

The foundation sponsored similar delegations to Japan in 1988 and 1992, sending police chiefs from such cities as Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

"We're not saying, 'Take everything in Japan and put it in the U.S.' The Japanese have a very different culture than we do," Ms. Kimble said. "But there are many things we can learn from them. It's important that police see that an investment be made in the educational, social and economic future of the youths and their neighborhoods."

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