Police in Helsinki monitored Roma people as part of an operation intended to anticipate and prevent serious altercations, such as shootings, within the minority group between 2013 and 2015. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)


THERE IS REASON to suspect discrimination in an information gathering and prevention operation targeted at Roma people by Helsinki Police Department, states Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kristina Stenman.

Stenman on Tuesday viewed that the operation was based on discriminatory instructions that are prohibited under the non-discrimination act.

Helsinki Police Department launched the operation in 2013 in a bid to anticipate and prevent altercations between members of the minority group, having detected an unusually high number of such incidents. The operation was terminated in 2015, although parts of it continued in 2016 and 2017, according to the non-discrimination ombudsman.

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Lasse Aapio, the Chief of Police in Helsinki, told Helsingin Sanomat in May that some of the incidents were very serious and dangerous shootings. The police department, however, has been unable to produce exact statistics on the incidents cited as justification for launching the operation, according to the newspaper.

Helsinki Police Department decided to prevent the incidents by monitoring members of the minority group at places such as restaurants and service stations, as well as in downtown Helsinki.

Stenman estimated that the operation was targeted at a problematically large group of people and failed to focus on its stated purpose of preventing shootings and violent crime, given the instructions to intervene in infractions at a low threshold. Officers, for example, pulled over vehicles, carried out searches, seized property and wrote down the personal details of people of Roma backgrounds.

Such operations, she said, can dent public confidence in the just and impartial nature of police activities.

Helsinki Police Department should thus take action and review the issue with representatives of local Roma communities. There is also a need to develop police activities through training and non-discrimination planning.

The National Police Board on Tuesday stated it has welcomed the actions recommended by Stenman. A report on the measures will be presented to the ombudsman at a later date in accordance with the instructions.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT