When reporting some stories, denials and what is not said are the spotlights that reveal the real story. A flat denial by the police that ethnic profiling doesn’t occur suggests that it is probably more widespread than we think.
A court ruled on Monday that the actions of two Helsinki policemen, who used excessive physical force to detain a Roma, calling the man “stupid,” “do things like a monkey” and that “you [the Roma] are always guilty [of something],” were not racially motivated.
On top of this, the evidence from the CCTV cameras at the gas station were lost after they were transferred to a memory stick.
The two policemen were, however, fined for using excessive force, according to an MTV3 story.
OK, fine. What constitutes a racially motivated crime or conduct by a public official in Finland? I’m certain that this is clearly spelled out in the law. How it is applied is another story.
In some stories that we’ve covered on Migrant Tales, there is the feeling that the police are sometimes more keen on playing down the role hate crime. Black February is a case in point.
But what can you expect from the latest court ruling? All the judges that made the ruling are white. So were the two policemen, who belong to a service that is 99% white. Pitted against these two power institutions is a member of the Romany minority, which has endured social exclusion, prejudice and racism in this country for five hundred years.
Add to the backdrop a classified internal investigation made public in August into the behavior of the Helsinki Court of Appeals, which showed some judges sexually harassed women at parties, used racist and sexist language during recesses and in meetings outside of the courtroom.
While we’re not suggesting that there is a connection with the classified internal investigation and the latest ruling, the report raises more questions than answers.
If judges in the internal investigation were guilty of discriminatory and unprofessional behavior, what about others like teachers, policemen and other public officials?
Read full MTV3 story here.
Why is our response to intolerance so mild?
We could shed light on that question by asking why do leading newspapers like Helsingin Sanomat still give so much space to the opinions of MPs that have been convicted for ethnic agitation?
The answer is simple: Institutional racism, which we defend consciously because we agree with the present ethnic order of things or subconsciously, because we don’t know better.
Some may ask how can some members of the Finnish police service be racist. Read about the Stephen Lawrence case and others in Britain. They offer disturbing proof of how ethnicity plays a key role in resolving “white” justice in the police service.
We’re missing the point when we close our eyes to racism and justice. Not only do we have the ability to destroy a person’s life because of his or her ethnic background, we miss an important opportunity to strengthen our values and institutions.
The police is a service that serves everyone in this society.
When the police service forgets this important fact, as it did in the MTV3 story, it does great damage to its credibility. If the Roma and other visible minorities mistrust the Finnish police because they consider their conduct racist and unprofessional, we ‘d have to agree that they have a valid point.
The fact that they are doing too little to address this issue reinforces the fact that intolerance is an issue.
Absolving policemen for making racist and derogatory remarks to a member of a minority in Finland sends the wrong message to those who are policing.
Thank you JD for the heads-up!