Finnish Internet policeman, Marko Forss, has been criticized for spreading stereotypes on Twitter about a Roma who tried to steal a frozen chicken from a market, according to tabloid Iltalehti. Shouldn’t Forss, who monitors hate sites and was named policeman of the year in 2011, know better?
If it is surprising that Forss can make such a joke publicly, what is even more surprising is his excuse: ”I don’t see any racism in such a joke.”
What did Forss tweet? “Some funny things happen in police work, and for some reason these incidents often involve gypsies. In the best one a gypsy woman drops a frozen chicken from under her clothing in a shop. When police take the group into custody one of the men loudly objects: ‘come on, own up! Who threw that chicken at our Ally?’”*
The issue is not what he thought but how others could interpret and be offended by his so-called joke. Does Forss think that the Roma in Finland are so weathered by racism and social exclusion that they can take a joke that reinforces prejudices that they shoplift for a living?
Let’s imagine for a moment that the Finnish Internet policeman would be working for the Metropolitan Police in London and would make a similar joke about an ethnic group like Pakistanis.
Would he be able to get away with a I-didn’t-think-it-was-racist excuse?
I doubt it.
While we should be careful not to label all Finnish police as public servants who lack cultural sensitivity and savvy, Forss’ comment shows how few visible minorities there are in the Finnish police force.
* Many thanks go to Justice Demon for the translation.