The scars of ethnic profiling

How serious is ethnic profiling in Finland? Denials that it doesn’t occur at all by the police suggest that it may be a much wider problem than believed. The Ombudsman for Minorities has received a number of complaints from immigrants and visible minorities claiming to be victims of ethnic profiling. 

Statements in April by Christian Democrat (KD) interior minister, Päivi Räsänen, haven’t helped matters either. She said that spot checks by the police of foreigners were fine since it was an effective way to clamp down on undocumented immigrants.

Contrary to the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Finnish police does not compile statistics of  how many Finns and foreigners are stopped and frisked.  In 2011, the NYPD stopped and frisked people 685,724 times. Eighty-seven percent of them were either blacks or Latinos, according to Racism Review, citing the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The New York Times published an opinion piece on ethnic profiling called “The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk.” In the piece, there is a video clip documenting the “scars” a young black man has received from ethnic profiling.

Rainer Hiltunen, the Ombudsman for Minorities’ head of office,  said that there are two things one can do if you believe you’ve been stopped unfairly by the police. You can ask the police for a written explanation stating why you were stopped or report the case directly to the Ombudsman for Minorities.

Below is one case of ethnic profiling in Finland that was never reported to the police and took place in 2007-08. The victim was a Somali man in his mid-twenties.

I had just had coffee with a friend and we went to the [Helsinki] Railway Station to catch the last train home. It was about 11 pm.  As we waited, my friend noticed 4-5 muscular-skinhead-looking-white Finns walking towards us. We decided to split up and run in opposite directions. The men ran after my friend. I ran to VR [Finnish Railways] security guards’ office. I was allowed in after I banged on the door.  I told them that we were being chased by 4-5 men. I was asked to take a seat. 

The VR security guards didn’t do anything when I told them that the men who were chasing us were standing right outside the door. It looked as if they knew each other. To my surprise, the guards started to insult and call me the n-word and asked me why I was so ugly. The police came  about 30 minutes later. They were very angry at me and I was arrested. I asked why they were arresting me if I was the victim.  

I was taken to the police station and spent a night in a prison cell. 

The victim said that ever since this incident he has lost belief in the police.