[prayer circle for no more fire/fighting starters] asks:

i can’t remember (or find) if you’ve covered it before, but how do you think police and the criminal justice system works in the pokemon world works? we know there are police officers, but what do they do/what are they for when most of the populace seems to police themselves?

I’m not sure it necessarily needs to work any differently? Saying that the populace “police themselves” is something I would take with a grain of salt – the games probably give us a distorted view here, because the whole point of an adventure RPG is to let the player be the hero, even when that’s a little bit unrealistic or stretches what are supposed to be the normal rules of the setting. Just because we see preteen trainers stopping crimes and saving the world doesn’t mean that’s how they normally expect criminal justice to work! In the anime the Officers Jenny are pretty numerous and never seem to be hard-pressed to find something to do. I don’t think we ever see lawyers, and criminals tend to just get thrown in prison without a trial, but would an episode of the Pokémon anime really be improved by a five-minute scene where Jenny explains due process to Ash and his friends? It’s a kids’ show; it’s okay if it just shows the bad guys getting beaten and doesn’t get bogged down in their right to remain silent and be provided with an attorney. There’s a scene in one episode of the Unova season of the anime where Cilan sets up an impromptu courtroom, with himself as the judge and Ash as counsel for the prosecution, to try the case of Shamus (the abusive original trainer of Ash’s Tepig); obviously the kids have only a basic idea of what oral arguments before a judge might look like, but it seems like they’re referencing conventions that are the same as we have in the real world. There’s also Looker, who claims to be with the International Police (not that I trust a single word he says). Interpol doesn’t actually have its own agents who make arrests because their job is facilitating communication and cooperation between the national police forces who do the hands-on work, but Pokémon wouldn’t be the only fictional portrayal that makes this particular break from reality.

I think we don’t see the activities of police or lawyers or judges or any of the rest because Pokémon’s developers and writers are just not interested in portraying it and happy to assume it all works as normal. A lot of the specific laws are bound to be quite different, and presumably there’s a whole body of specialised law that surrounds Pokémon training – covering things like what rights Pokémon have in human societies, whether a Pokémon can be culpable for things its trainer ordered it to do, how Pokémon trainers should be overseen and how abuse should be punished, that sort of thing. Specific Pokémon’s powers might raise more complicated legal questions. I think there’s a lot Pokémon could do with that, if it had any writers who were so inclined – legal drama doesn’t have to be super gritty and pessimistic (look at the Ace Attorney series; its tone’s not that different from Pokémon’s), and exploring that side of the world could be really interesting. But I can’t immediately think of anything that obviously suggests the underlying system or principles of criminal justice have to be radically foreign to us – in fact, I think maybe it’s better if they’re not, just for the sake of making these hypothetical stories relatable and meaningful.

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