Glass houses…

When I was a teenager I worked at a fast food restaurant, and often at the end of the day there’d be unsold burgers left over. I remember asking the manager if I could take one but he refused, saying that the store policy forbid it because employees might be encouraged to intentionally make extra food just so they could get it for free at the end of the day.

Despite their reasoning, it still seemed like a waste of food to me, which is why I can sympathize slightly with the actions of a lieutenant with the Detention Management Division of the General Affairs Department of the Saitama Prefectural Police. However, unlike me he never bothered to ask to take leftover food and it ultimately cost him his job.

▼ There’s no such thing as a free lunch

The division where he worked handled the bento issued to prisoners, but never sure how many people might end up in detention on any given day, there would often be extra lunch boxes ordered. The 50-year-old lieutenant, believing that throwing away food like that was a waste, helped himself to one of the extras. He did this often over the four-and-a-half years he worked there.

However, these bento were the property of the Detention Management Division, and taking them without permission was tantamount to theft. Each one was said to cost 300 yen ($2.18), which could have added up to quite a bit over the years. As punishment his pay was docked by 10 percent for six months.

In addition to the lunches, the lieutenant was also accused of several cases of power harassment, which is when superiors display bullying behavior to subordinates at a workplace. In one instance, the lieutenant is said to have walked up to a lower ranking officer who was eating a lunch prepared by his wife and said, “That bento looks like garbage.”

▼ A news report on the incident, possibly the first I’ve seen that used a cute cartoon reenactment

That was a particularly odd insult to make since the lieutenant himself was regularly eating bento intended for the garbage. Granted their condition was fine, but it wouldn’t be incorrect to refer to them as actual “garbage bento.” The irony was not lost on readers of the news either with some comments suggesting the lieutenant was actually complimenting the officer’s bento, among the general anger people had about his power harassment.

“Maybe since the lieutenant ate garbage bento, he was actually complimenting the other guy’s lunch?”
“He was embezzling lunches? What an idiot.”
“He was probably jealous of the wife’s bento.”
“It sounds to me like he was trying to make friends.”
“The guy’s making fun of other people’s lunches and he can’t even get his own.”
“What a cruel and pitiful man.”
“Aren’t these things he’s doing technically crimes? Where’s the charges?”
“Maybe that’s his way of saying, ‘That looks delicious!’”
“That guy looks like garbage to me.”

Given the double offense of theft and power harassment, the lieutenant voluntarily retired on 25 August, shortly after his punishment was handed down. The Saitama Prefectural Police also issued a statement saying: “It is regrettable that this incident damaged the trust of the people of this prefecture. We will make efforts to prevent this from happening again.”

Hopefully they do, because if frequent reports are anything to go by, the problem of power harassment is especially prominent in police forces and sometimes has tragic consequences. 

Source: TV Asahi News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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