By Enrique Tessieri
The violence we have witnessed recently against immigrants in cities like Oulu and Espoo Leppävaara put into question the claim that hate crimes fell by 15% in 2010, according to the Police College of Finland. Apart from raising worrisome questions about the present direction of our society it looks at the role of the police in answering this threat.
Reporting a hate crime to the authorities can be easier said than done, according to a Migrant Tales blog entry. The low hate-crime figure in 2010 could reveal a worrisome reality: Mistrust of the police by some immigrants.
It is nothing new that Finland’s society is becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse. The rise of some parties like the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS), and the ongoing heated debate on some anti-immigration forums, reveal that some Finns, and even immigrants, are either in denial or ignorant about such an ever-growing group.
This reality can be seen in our police force, where you’ll find dear little representation of that ever-growing “Other” Finland.
Migrant Tales got in touch with the police and asked how many non-white police there were in Finland. According to the present law, the police are not required to reveal the ethnic identity of its employees. While steps are being taken to diversify Finland’s police force and change the law in order to recruit more non-white Finns to the force, it is still unclear when this will happen, according to the police.
While I am certain that there are many service-community minded policemen and policewomen in Finland, there appears to be at present a lack of political will to do so.
The apparent lack of will to change matters on this front could explain why the immigrant community has mixed feeling about the police. Some claim that the police do a fine job while others express mistrust and accuse them of racial profiling.
One good way to undermine mistrust and bolster credibility of the police force is by diversifying it and ensuring immigrants and visible minorities in the process that they are equally protected, not persecuted. Being colorblind, or arguing that ethnicity has no bearing on a crime, does more harm to the integrity of the police force and its assurances that it serves each member of the community equally.
Changing Finland’s police force to represent “Other” Finns and immigrants may be easier said than done. As with the rest of society, many still find it difficult to accept immigrants and Finns who are visible minorities as equals. The recent warning by the police about hate speech and racism on the Internet reinforce the latter perception and should concern us all.