Year-End Special Read】An emergency trilogy of police officers discusses the behind-the-scenes of security for dignitaries, including food, clothing and housing during the period of security. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Year-End Special Read】An emergency trilogy of police officers discusses the behind-the-scenes of security for dignitaries, including food, clothing and housing during the period of security.

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Dignitaries from various countries participating in the Hiroshima Summit. Prime Minister Kishida in the center.

With the elimination of restrictions on the COVID-19 crisis, society is once again regaining its true nature. Various activities in the political arena are also becoming more active.

At the same time, however, there have been incidents that have exposed questions and problems with the security system that ensures the safety of political activities. The shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2010 is still fresh in the memory as a major incident in which a security problem was pointed out. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was attacked during a campaign speech in Wakayama Prefecture.

While the importance and challenges of security are attracting attention, what is actually happening in the field where they are in charge? At the “Hiroshima Summit” held on May 19-21, ’23, when the leaders of the G7 nations, including U.S. President Biden and French President Macron, visited Japan, some 24,000 people, including support from police headquarters across Japan, were mobilized. As the year drew to a close, the police officers who provided security for the Hiroshima summit, which was the largest gathering of the year for the security police, looked back on that time.

Building a Security System that Puts the Prestige of the Nation on the Line

–How was the security plan for the Hiroshima summit prepared?

Lieutenant A: The supreme commander was Hiroshima Prefectural Police Commissioner Yoshiyuki Morimoto, and support teams from police departments throughout Japan were under his command. The foundation of the security plan was prepared in advance by the Hiroshima Prefectural Police, and the planning of the support team began in earnest around April. For example, “the Metropolitan Police Department is in charge of security for the most important U.S. country,” “the Osaka Prefectural Police is for this country,” “the Kanagawa Prefectural Police is for this country,” and so on. In any case, the G7 countries will be at the highest level. The leaders of the other guest participating countries will be assigned according to the size of their countries. The burden rate for dispatching support depends on the size of the police headquarters. The plan was to respond depending on the situation, such as a high risk of terrorism.

Lieutenant B in his 40s: The country-specific security plan creates the framework for the basic rules, but there are always requests from the heads of state and their wives, for example, to go sightseeing or to enjoy gourmet food. One person actually went to eat okonomiyaki, a specialty of Hiroshima, and uploaded a photo of it on SNS. We have already factored in the fact that we will receive irregular requests. We also prepared a unit for this purpose. The main venue, such as Atomic Bomb Museum (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum), is truly “the venue” for “The Summit,” so security is perfect because people may visit it many times. They are not afraid to make their presence known. In fact, Prime Minister Snake and his delegation made a secret visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in addition to their official visit to the summit.

During the Hiroshima Summit, Prime Minister Kishida (center) led a group of dignitaries from various countries to visit Peace Memorial Park

–Please tell us about your activities from the time you actually arrived in the area to the time of the summit.

Sgt. C, 30-something: I arrived in Hiroshima in early May. First of all, after arriving at the site, we had to understand the land, geography, topography, etc. of Hiroshima. Although we also used a car, we basically went around on foot, and each of us checked the land of Hiroshima to see how we could be more effective when we were assigned to security posts. Naturally, we visited Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum many times. For example, we would check how many steps and how many minutes would be required for the heads of state to get out of their cars and walk to the Peace Memorial Park upon their arrival.

Lieutenant A in his 40s: I would look around the site to see if there were any buildings in Hiroshima that could be used as a shooting point from the rooftops of skyscrapers and other buildings in the city. We check to see if there are any buildings that could be used as shooting points from the rooftops of skyscrapers or other buildings in the city of Hiroshima. Naturally, we check the hotel where the heads of state will be staying, whether there are any nearby buildings where we can peek into the floors where the heads of state have their rooms, and everything else, and come up with an effective layout.

-What kind of security measures were taken when the summit was actually in full swing?

Sgt. D in his 30s: Around May 18, just before the summit was to go into full swing, we had a “two-part system” in place. We would work from 8:30 a.m. until around 10:00 a.m. the next day, working about 24 hours straight. At the end of the shift, they would return to their lodgings. Sometimes I would take a nap in the middle of the night, but sometimes I would get into a fight with the person sleeping next to me in the big room because our feet bumped into each other or something (laughs).

Sgt. C: There was a police box with a capacity of five people located far from the city of Hiroshima, and during the summit, more than a hundred people were assigned to support the police. It seems that they were having trouble with command. I think this is still over-security.

Lieutenant B in his 40s: The heads of state came in from Hiroshima Airport after changing planes at Narita or Haneda. On the day of the meeting, we would get a call saying, “Biden is here,” “Macron has arrived,” or “Trudeau has entered. Then the security force in charge would follow us around by car. If I had to go out to participate in an official event, I would follow around in the same formation, with a full security detail.

Officer E in his 20s: I was away from home at the station where I worked, but I wanted to go to the Hiroshima summit for security. If you say I was on duty away from home, that is true, but it was pretty tough because I had to work hard for the senior officers who were sent to Hiroshima who had left. I also had to do daily routine work, and there was a lot of overtime. I was also very tired because I had to be on the lookout for possible terrorist attacks on soft targets (civilians) by groups opposed to the summit at the terminal stations in my precinct.

Lieutenant B in his 40s: Not only the summit, but also “G20,” “APEC,” etc., there are many large scale security operations for which police departments nationwide dispatch support. It is said that “the one who goes there wins” in such security. If you are dispatched, there is a certain sense of fulfillment, but the work remains the same for those who remain behind. This is actually more difficult.

Sergeant C in his 30s: Even though we are short-staffed because we are sending police officers to Hiroshima to provide security for the summit, there are no excuses for the local residents. They expect the same level of response as usual. It’s a tough spot, but we can’t whine about it.

–The big surprise of the summit was the attendance of President Zelensky of Ukraine, which is under Russian military aggression. How did the local police officers working security there take it?

Lieutenant A in his 40s: I learned from the press that President Zelensky was coming to the Hiroshima Summit on May 20. We were not informed in advance within the police. It was a secret matter until the very end. However, we had prepared a reserve convoy for such an eventuality, so there was no problem. Countries that are subject to important security measures, such as the U.S., originally have a reserve convoy. In addition, we had at least one more reserve convoy. For example, we never knew what might happen, such as a car breaking down on the day of the mission. The reserve convoy would not go to work unless something irregular happened. So, it is true that there is a kind of parental love to have something happen and to let the reserve convoy come in and be involved in the work.

Sgt. C in his 30s: I found out myself in the newspaper that morning. There were rumors beforehand that President Zelensky might attend, so I took it as a sign of nervousness that he was coming after all. The general Japanese public is sympathetic to President Zelensky, as he is in the midst of Russia’s military invasion. However, I knew that there was no guarantee that there would not be someone who would be happy to set up some kind of terrorist attack on President Zelensky, someone who would be amused.

–How did you spend your life in the area? Please tell us about your life outside of work, such as lodging and food conditions.

Sgt. C in his 30s: The lodging was like a private accommodation; we were crammed into a room with about 10 people, which was more than our capacity (laughs). Even so, it was surprisingly painless. It may be a little inappropriate to put it this way, but to put it this way, the atmosphere was like the police academy of my youth, and I was thrilled at first. It was also like a high school club room.

However, after a few days, the room gradually began to smell sweaty (laugh). There was one washing machine, but it could not spin enough for more than a dozen people. You had to use laundromats, etc.

Sgt. D in his 30s: I think we were treated well. We had a single room in a business hotel. Even after hard work, we had time to be alone. I could take a bath whenever I wanted to, and if I felt sleepy, I could go to bed. Since we were not allowed to drink outside, we would buy beer and other drinks at a convenience store with our friends who were staying at the business hotel, and about 10 of us would gather in someone’s room to drink. After work, I still wanted to drink with my friends.

Lieutenant B: The meals were basically boxed lunches provided by the Hiroshima Prefectural Police. I was told that each meal cost in the 600 yen range. The number of people mobilized was over 20,000, so they had to order from a number of bento stores, which was a lot of work. On several occasions, but in my case, I gave the bento for dinner to my younger juniors and went out and had a drink in downtown Hiroshima. Of course, I left early at a time that would not interfere with my duties. ……

–How did you feel when you finished the summit successfully? Also, what are your thoughts on the future of police security operations?

Lieutenant A in his 40s: I was deeply relieved when it was over. The National Police Agency and Hiroshima Prefectural Police were quite fired up. After the shooting of former Prime Minister Abe and the bombing of Prime Minister Kishida, the basic policy for security was the Hiroshima Prefectural Police, but the police headquarters in charge of each country, for example, the Metropolitan Police Department in the United States, took responsibility. The idea was that each police headquarters should assume responsibility.

From now on, the idea that “it’s a good thing nothing happened even if countermeasures were not taken in the field” will not work. Two such incidents have occurred in a row, one with former Prime Minister Abe and the other with Prime Minister Kishida. The credibility of the Japanese police has been shattered. We must have a strong determination not to let such incidents happen. We must carefully plan and implement security measures. If we don’t, I believe something will happen again.

Officer E in his 20s: Incidents will occur again in different forms. How will we stop it? This is where the police are being questioned. Sometimes citizens criticize us for over-security, but we believe that if something happens, the police will lose.

Sgt. D in his 30s: For example, the criminal police are praised if a murder case is solved successfully with the arrest of the culprit. However, the security police are praised if they prevent an incident from happening and are told, “Of course, it’s natural. If an incident occurs, they are disqualified and given only a perfect score of 100 or zero. It is not a job that is valued by people because nothing happens as it should, but it is all about working steadily.

There are various international conferences, large and small, planned for next year in Japan. There is also no end in sight to domestic political activities. Behind the scenes, there are police officers working to prevent violent crimes from occurring.

  • Interview and text by Masahiro Ojima Masahiro Ojima

    Nonfiction writer. After working for the Sankei Shimbun in the National Police Agency Press Club, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department, the Judicial Press Club, and the National Tax Agency Press Club, he went freelance. His most recent book is "How We Live: Money, Women, and Quitting Time of the Modern Yakuza" (Kodansha + Alpha Shinsho.)

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