That salute is not in the police manual.

It’s widely known that just about everything in Japan has a mascot character associated with it, from train stations to hemp. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is no different with Peopo-kun who’s been repping law enforcement in the capital for 35 years.

▼ Peopo-kun often appears in animated safety videos for kids.

The name “Peopo” is a portmanteau of the words “people” and “police” symbolizing his role as a bridge between the two, and with so many years of service under his belt, he’s famous around the country. However, with such fame comes the threat of people looking to capitalize off it.

On 12 December the Tokyo Metropolitan Police charged a man in his 30s and woman in her 40s with trademark violation after they were found selling unauthorized stickers bearing the likeness of Peopo-kun. Not only did the character on the sticker have a strong resemblance to Peopo-kun but it was shown giving the middle finger with the caption “imprisonment supreme” as well as “goodbye police” written on a bar across its eyes.

The married suspects were producing three types of these stickers for about 1,000 yen ($7.40) each through the popular flea market app Mercari and other websites since autumn 2020. An officer discovered the stickers while on “cyber patrol” – which is essentially police officers browsing websites and message boards, looking for crime. The couple admitted to the infringement, saying that they made about 80,000 yen ($590) from the sales.

It’s an open-and-shut case for law enforcement, and the court of public opinion in online comments seemed to concur that they had this couple dead to rights, no matter how funny the offending stickers might have been.

“That’s hilarious.”
“They could have just posted it on Twitter and gone viral. Selling it is crossing the line.”
“I seem to remember someone doing something like this before, only Peopo-kun was shooting a gun.”
“Police-themed doujin goods?”
“This should be allowed because it’s funny.”
“So, are they going to get imprisonment supreme?”
“Since they were charged and not arrested, they’ll probably get a fine supreme.”
“Someone should do the same thing but with Mickey Mouse.”
“That couple’s got guts infringing on the police’s trademark.”

It does make one wonder if the couple stopped to consider whether illegally using a police trademark was a wise business decision or not. Then again, maybe in the world of bootleg goods, Peopo-kun represents the ultimate challenge and these sneaky spouses were looking to make a name for themselves.

While their core motives remain murky, one thing we can take away from this story is that “cyber patrol” is an actual thing. So, the next time someone gives you grief for spending too much time online, you’ll know what to tell them.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/警視庁公式チャンネル
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