Police recruitment letter angers ‘suburb-dwellers’

Swedish police have angered many with the wording of a recruitment letter to young people of an immigrant background.

“Your experience as a ‘suburb-dweller’ (förortare) makes you incredibly valuable to us” wrote the police. While the English term suburb-dweller may sound innocuous enough, its Swedish equivalent holds connotations of immigrant segregation, soulless high rises and youth criminality.

“What do they mean ‘suburb-dweller’. They might just as well have written ‘blatte’ straight off,” said a 22-year old from Lund, speaking to newspaper Sydsvenskan. ‘Blatte’ is a derogatory term for an immigrant.

The tone of the letter is deliberately provocative. It begins with a phrase that may be interpreted as a summons and is followed up by the sentence: “You haven’t done anything yet…”.

Police recruitment officer Marie Andersson reveals that the letter was formulated with the help of the editorial team from Gringo, a magazine focusing on issues of immigration and integration. The aim of the correspondence was to encourage young people from the suburbs between the ages of 18 and 25 to join the police force.

“We used their idea of being somewhat provocative in order to awaken interest. We really haven’t had many applicants from there,” she told Sydsvenskan.

The anonymous 22-year-old is an engineering student at the local university and lives five minutes from Lund city centre. He does not understand why he received the letter in the first place.

“I am thinking of people who actually do live in the suburbs. For them this is a clear insult,” he said.