Does the Finnish police service have a racism problem? Remember in June when a scoop by Long Play exposed a secret Finnish police Facebook group that dwelt in racist and bigoted comments? It wasn’t just any Facebook group since it consisted of over 2,800 members or about one-third of Finland’s police service.
National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehminen tweets below: “We resolved the matter of [the secret] Facebook [page]. We have taken official steps, and others are ongoing [to solve this matter]. I don’t accept racism or discrimination in any shape or form.”
In a statement, the police condemn all forms of racism and discrimination, states that it has updated its gender equality a non-discrimination plan as well as its guidelines on how the police show participate in social media platforms. Other steps include:
•”A new equality and diversity plan for the police was approved on 26 June 2017
•The guidelines on police activity on the social media have been updated
•Since 1 December 2017, the police have also adopted a so-called ethical channel, which enables anonymous whistle blowing on unethical behaviour for the police force’s own staff
•Mandatory social media training for all police personnel is under preparation, which will draw particular attention to the obligation of the police to observe the rules of good conduct
•The values of the police have been included as part of the development discussions of all police employees up to 2018
•The case has been considered by the police’s national management group – all police units have been instructed to intervene on a zero-tolerance basis in cases of racism, discrimination, or other inappropriate behaviour.
The National Police Board will closely monitor the need for further follow-up measures.”
While this is the least that we could expect from the National Police Board in light of what happened, they fall far too short and only aim to maintain the status quo. Considering how many police were members of the Facebook group, it is surprising that no charges were filed by the state prosecutor and that only one, yes, one, police officer was handed “a serious written admonition for inappropriate conduct in an unofficial, closed Facebook group.”
Five public servants working for the police were “issued with supervisory guidance.”
The BBC wrote in June the following about the closed Facebook group and how it used far-right sources to spread its racist messages. “The comments included crude jokes about mixed-race rapper Musta Barbaari,” it reported. “There was also derision of an asylum seeker who had attempted suicide in Helsinki in March.”
Migrant Tales reported: “Other comments argued that black people are inferior due to their culture and genetic makeup. The policeman substantiated his claim by stating that blacks hadn’t succeeded in any country.The Facebook group shared articles from anti-immigration and racist groups like online magazine MV-lehti, far-right groups Suomen Sisu and Britain First.”
Even if the National Police Board wants to assure us that they have taken the appropriate steps to deal with the issue, they have shown that they are still in denial about racism and discrimination.
An apology would be a positive first step as well as announce that the National Police Board will take concrete steps to make the police service more diverse ethnically so that it represents the demographic makeup of Helsinki.
Spot checks carried out on February 3 in the Puhos shopping center in Helsinki are a sad recent example and a reminder that nothing has changed. It reinforces that the police are still in the dark and consider Finland to be only a white country.
No matter how many laws and guidelines they update, the problem will remain as long as they deny and play down the problem that erodes trust and distances minorities and migrants from the police, which should be serving instead of profiling them.