The Finnish police service and its issues with ethnic profiling

by , under Enrique Tessieri

When the Finnish police service speaks to the media, white Finns usually give it the benefit of the doubt. Even if the police service tries its best to assure us that it doesn’t ethnically profile people, belief and credibility are in the eye of the beholder. 

Due to ethnic profiling and the lack of ethnic diversity in the Finnish police service, some migrants and visible minorities like the Roma see the police service with apprehension.

To these people, the police is an extension of white Finnish privilege and power. The fact that some minorities and migrants don’t trust the police should concern this public service.

On Saturday Migrant Tales published a story, citing tabloid Iltalehti, about how the police service together with the Finnish Border Guard wilfully targetted foreigners for spot identity checks in Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa.

Six people on the wanted list were apprehended by the police in the operation.

Despite the commotion and unfair treatment of the police service in targeting “people who stand out from white Finns,” the police claims that there was no ethnic profiling.

“We also apprehended Finns,” Inspector Johanna Sinivuori was quoted as saying in Ilta-Sanomat.  “Estonians for example and other nationals from neighboring countries were stopped and asked for IDs due to the immigration act. Indeed, we try to avoid annoying and inconveniencing the person. People usually understand when we tell them that the immigration act requires us to do this.”

How many visible minorities and migrants did the Ilta-Sanomat reporter approach?

None as usual.

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Suldaan Said Ahmed tweeted: “From tomorrow I have to have to carry my ID papers with me, this only applies to dark(-skinned) people.”

Ethnic profiling and discrimination are serious matters, especially if you’re the victim of such abuse.

I haven’t ever forgotten during my long stay in Finland how the police stopped me and how I suspected it to be ethnic profiling.

I was pulled over by the police on Helsinki’s Itävaylä freeway in the 1980s, they asked me for my California driver’s license and then threw a question: “When I was leaving Finland?” I spoke to him in Finnish so he must have understood that Finland is my home.

It’s such unprofessional and discriminatory behavior – as well as other poor examples – by the police that has taken away my belief in them. Their issues with racism and bigotry haven’t been addressed effectively. As long as 99% of them are white and as long as about 50% of them vote for the Perussuomalaiset* and National Coalition Party little will change on this front.

Moreover, what assurances has the police service given to Finland’s minorities and migrants that they serve them in the same way as white Finns?

Too few, too little.

Former Christian Democrat Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen said in 2012 that the police service didn’t do anything wrong or was ethnically profiling anyone with spot identity checks of foreigners.

The Council of Europe expressed concern in 2013 about ethnic profiling by the Finnish police service.

“There is one [regulation] which increases the risk of racial profiling by the police, so this is the police singling out people based by their visible appearance,” Council of Europe communications officer Andrew Cutting told YLE News. “Another issue [the report] raises is that foreigners can be detained whilst their identity can be ascertained in certain situations, and that this too is discriminatory.”

A survey in March showed that that about half of those polled voted for the National Coalition Party (NCP) and the Perussuomalaiset (PS).* Both parties, especially the latter, bases its popularity on spreading bigotry and anti-immigration urban tales of certain migrant groups like Muslims.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” 

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