Japan's police force was exposed to ridicule when morning TV viewers saw a man chasing away two officers.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called the incident "embarrassing" and ordered a review of police training.
Television footage showed the officers approaching a car that had ploughed into a building in Tokyo.
They were then seen running away when the driver began pursuing them, brandishing what appeared to be a club.
"I couldn't believe it when the police officers fled instead of trying to seize the suspect when he came at them," said Mr Koizumi.
The incident, which happened in Tokyo's Daiba district, was broadcast by Fuji Television Network on its morning news bulletin.
The prime minister has told Japan's public security chief to tighten up police training to prevent a repeat incident.
"When the culprit came towards them, they didn't try to restrain him but ran away," he said. "I was surprised and amazed when I saw this.
"Many people must have viewed the incident on TV. I told the National Public Safety Commission chief to take steps so police are trained and prepared."