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Police slammed over 'east European' tweet

Police slammed over 'east European' tweet

Published: 26 Sep 2012 11:22 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 Sep 2012 11:22 GMT+02:00

“Suspected pick-pocketer at Mariatorget metro station tonight. Dark-haired, 175 centimetres, ’Humphrey Bogart hat’ on his head. East European appearance,” read a tweet on the @YBSödermalm Twitter account late on Tuesday night.

Very soon after the tweet had been posted, the twittersphere erupted with criticism of the issued description.

“How much help does such a description give, do you think? And what does such a man look like? Like Fyodor Dostoyevsky? Like Viktor Tikhonov," one tweeter asked.

Viktor Adolphson of the Södermalm police, one of the two officers in charge of the account, thinks that too much has been made of the description, which he describes as “fairly harmless”:

“Of course it isn’t ideal, but it is the description we had,” he told news agency TT.

According to Adolphson the station followed the guidelines as set out by the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen) when they issued the perpetrator’s description.

“It is OK as long as you don’t point your finger at a specific country, or group, like the Roma people for example,” said Adolphson to TT.

When asked about what “east European looks” means, Adolphson said that the descriptions are used more to rule out other distinguishing factors in suspects’ appearances.

“Then you might not look for darker skinned, Asian or what is perceived as northern European-looking perpetrators,” said Adolphson to TT.

Adolphson does not think that the description issued was in any way offensive:

“To make this into being offensive to a specific group of people would be to seriously read too much into it,” he said.

The tweet from Södermalm police

The @YBSödermalm account, operated by officers Viktor Adolphson and Johan Säfström, has previously courted controversy when the officers tweeted the description "Romani appearance" in July, an action that forced them to make a formal apology.

Another instance when the officers were forced to explain their actions was when Säfström expressed support for the Stockholm football team AIK in connection with a match.

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Your comments about this article

12:45 September 26, 2012 by ulster1690
In the UK police use discriptions such as the one above on a daily basis to help catch crminals, with not a word said. Wise up Sweden!
12:46 September 26, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
And are the police also not allowed to identify suspects as either male or female, since that would add to the perception that men commit more crime?

How about the height of the suspect? If a tall guys steals a basketball from a department store, and the police add the detail that he is tall to their tweet, will all talls guys be forever stigmatized and be unable to find employment in department stores?

People blame the police here for not being able to apprehend criminals, but if they are not allowed to issue general descriptions of suspects then we are all in a lot of trouble. As Adolphson states, East European indeed rules out Asian, African, South American (a bit less clear if it rules out 'Northern European', but so what?)..

The complainers have a right to complain in a democracy, but those of us who disagree with the mertis of their complaints have the right to call them idiots. They are idiots.
12:54 September 26, 2012 by OopSan
What is the difference between East and West European?
12:58 September 26, 2012 by ttrs_d
This is rediculous, of course ethnic apearance is important in description of theifs and criminal suspects. If criminailty is on the rise in Sweden it is ONLY because of the governmental policies in Sweden. They allow for criminal activities to happen so often.
13:12 September 26, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
... should correct myself that rather than 'South American' I should have written 'Hispanic'.

These rapid fire police descriptions are meant to quickly narrow down possible suspects in a crowd and are based on a culturally acquired and often imprecise link between facial appearance and perceived geographic region of origin.

After issuing a tweet to be on the lookout for a particular suspect, the police have more important work to do than issuing 46 follow up tweets filled with various disclaimers about what a so called Eastern European appearance does or does not include, or the precise ethnic makeup of all of Eastern Europe, along with voluminous apologies to anyone within the police force or the public who may have inadvertently been offended by their first tweet.
13:58 September 26, 2012 by sometimesinsweden
"Eastern European" is police speak for 'Roma/gypsy' - which is no longer allowed due to politically correct constraints. Which is a clear ethnic identity which enables people to look out for.

Same as in the UK.
14:10 September 26, 2012 by EP
Most other countries use terms such as caucasian mail, surely there must some other general description of that sort in Sweden, such as a "white male"

And what exactly is a East European look? There are blondes there with blue eyes, dark haired people, people of all sorts of looks ... at least they have variety :-)
15:03 September 26, 2012 by Abe L
I think most people claiming ignorance on here have a pretty good idea about the stereotype look of an Eastern European person. I am very happy that the police actually specified this as it does help me personally - I would know immediately what people would qualify with that statement. It also helps me to keep my guard up around such people when there are reported statements about the same type of perpetrators.
15:20 September 26, 2012 by towns
Sorry but what exactly is an "Eastern European look" Belarusians for example, are considered Eastern Europeans and based on my experience the average Belarusian looks like a Northern European whereas the average say, Albanian (who is also often considered Eastern European) looks more like an Italian or Greek.

Generalizing "Eastern European" is like generalizing a "Western European look" the average Scandinavian tends to look slightly different than the average Iberian. (For those who don't know, that's Spanish and Portuguese).
16:12 September 26, 2012 by Svealander
@ towns

They are probably using "East European" as a codeword for Roma/Romani/Gypsy (for the politically incorrect). The irony is of course that much of Eastern Europe doesn't even have a notable Romani population (in Ukraine for example, there are only about 50,000 out of a population of nearly 46 million), most Romani are concentrated in only a few countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia). Of course, don't expect the Swedish police to know that.
21:16 September 26, 2012 by Grokh
Some people see way too many stuff where there isnt anything.

"omg u said black you are racist" /facepalm
10:55 September 27, 2012 by johan rebel
I work with lots of Polish and Ukranian colleagues, and many of them have distinctly slavic features which I find very recognizable. But then again, I was born in Poland and partly grew up there, so maybe familiarity plays a part.
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